Sea Aster – A Foraging Guide to Its Food, Medicine and Other Uses

Scientific name

Tripolium pannonicum.

Family

Compositae.

Botanical Description

The plant yields blue-purple, daisy-like flowers with bright yellow stamens among a sea of long, slender green leaves. 

Status

Native to Britain, Europe, North Africa, and Asia. See: Maps.

Habitat

Sea cliffs, saltmarsh, salt water, coastal mud flats.

Parts Used For Food

Shoots, leaves, stems.

Harvest Time

Harvest from late Spring through Summer.

Food Uses

In pre-industrial Sweden sea asters were one of many wild species gathered for stews and soups. However, these plants were also considered fodder for livestock and may only have been gathered for human consumption during times of famine.1 Today the plant is among one of the wild plants sold by a small southern-Swedish foraging enterprise to the restaurant NOMA in Copenhagen2,3

The salty, fleshy leaves could be made into a pickle or chopped and added to salads, soups and stews by more adventurous cooks.

Sea Aster Recipes

Nutritional Profile

One study suggests the leaves have a particularly high protein content.4

Herbal Medicine Uses

English herbalist John Gerard (1545–1612) recommended sea aster as a wound herb,but there are no records to indicate how useful the plant was to coastal communities in this regard. Gerard also prescribed sea aster for dropsy and as an antidote to poisoning.5 

Other Uses

The flower is particularly attractive to rabbits,6 who obviously came to their senses about sea aster long before we did!

Cautions

Shaibur and team (2008) studied arsenic levels in sea aster, which was found to be largely concentrated in the roots and not of significant concern to the plant’s overall toxicity.7

Lack of data on contraindications, side effects and toxicity of a plant is not absolute proof of its safety. Always exercise caution when using a new wild edible particularly during pregnancy or when breastfeeding.

Further Reading

References

  1. Svanberg, I. (2012) The use of wild plants as food in pre-industrial Sweden. Acta Societatis Botanicorum Poloniae. [Online] 81317–327.
  2. Luczaj, L. et al. (2012) Wild Food Plant Use in 21st Century Europe: The Disappearance of Old Traditions and the Search for New Cuisines Involving Wild Edibles. Acta Societatis Botanicorum Poloniae. [Online] 81 (4), 359–370.
  3. ?uczaj, ?. & Pieroni, A. (2016) Nutritional Ethnobotany in Europe: From Emergency Foods to Healthy Folk Cuisines and Contemporary Foraging Trends, in María de Cortes Sánchez-Mata & Javier Tardío (eds.) Mediterranean Wild Edible Plants. [Online]. New York, NY: Springer New York. pp. 33–56.
  4. Khot, S. & Joshi, A. (2004) Edible Succulent Halophytes as Good Source of Proteins for Restoration of Salt-Affected Soils.
  5. Grigson, G. (1996) The Englishman’s Flora. New edition edition. Oxford: Helicon.
  6. Eland, S. C. & Lucas, G. (2013) Plant Biographies.
  7. Shaibur, M. R. et al. (2008) Critical Toxicity Level of Arsenic and Elemental Composition of Arsenic-Induced Chlorosis in Hydroponic Sorghum. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution. [Online] 191 (1–4), 279–292.

Share Your Experience. Leave A Note For Others

  1. Thank you so much for your information and insights Robin. I follow the Eatweeds group on Facebook intermittently and it’s a great site to come home to.I’m dealing with a chronic health condition and all that it brings and your generous giving is a healing in itself. Many Thanks again, Yvonne

    Reply
  2. Hi Robin.
    Il like this plant very much. We do eat quite a bit of it when we give our seminars in Britany. My favourite way is definitely lightly cooked in a pan with a bit of (unsalted) butter. Too good !
    The plant iscommonly called “oreilles de cochon” (pig’s ears) in France.
    It’s making quite a comeback these days.

    Reply

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