It's summer here and everyday we are at the beach. We're here on our annual family holiday to visit my parents in the Gippsland Lakes. I've come here every year since I was a toddler. We spend our days cycling around the sandy tracks finding birds and wildlife (koalas, kangaroos, echidna), jumping off jetties, or taking to the lake in a sailboat.
I am increasingly finding myself fossicking amongst the undergrowth around this secluded lakeside for wild greens and fruits. I've found so many interesting things - it's wonderful!
Wild harvesting at the beachEvery day the kids and I try out freshly wild harvested ingredients in our meals, or find some other way to use them, such as...
- saltbush leaves - great alternative to salt
- saltbush fruits - fresh, in salads or sauces
- pigface leaves - the gel used to soothe bites - can be eaten raw and cooked too (http://our-permaculture-life.blogspot.com.au/2017/01/wild-foraging-at-beach-pigface-its-all.html)
- pigface fruits - fresh, in salads or sauces
- pigface flowers - in salad
- warrigal greens - as a spinach green
Wild Parsley (Apium prostratum)
The other day I found some wild parsley in front of the house. It’s sometimes called sea parsley or sea celery. I have never noticed it before - there at the lake edge amongst the pebbles and sand.
It has quite fine and small leaves in is low growing. Perhaps because it is flowering now I noticed it. It is of the umbellifereae/apiaceae family and therefore has the umbrella shaped flower of fennel and carrots, but smaller.
I tasted the leaves - they are just like parsley or celery leaves, just pleasantly salty. Into the salad they went! You can eat the leaves, flowers, seeds, stems and roots.
It grows all along the southern coast of Australia, and even up the east coast to the southern parts of Queensland. There's even a particular variety that grows just on Lord Howe Island.
There are two main varieties:
- Headland Sea Parsley (Apium prostratum var. prostratum) has a prostrate form with broad leaves and it grows on coastal dunes and headlands.
- Mangrove Sea Parsley (Apium prostratum var. filiforme) has a more upright form and it’s leaves are narrower. This one grows in swamps and on the edge of tidal lakes. This is the better tasting variety. This is the one I found.
It looks quite like parsley, but the leaves do vary from place to place. It's easy to identify because the smell and taste of the crushed leaf is so unmistakably like parsley or celery.
Wild parsley is actually very similar to European parsley and can be used instead of it in any recipe. It can be used raw, in soups, stews, salad dressings, sauces, to flavour butter or on seafood. It can be dried too.
It’s a perfect plant for gardens near the Australian coast because it is so hardy. It can actually grow right on the waters edge, sometimes even submerged by salty storm tides! It grows in composting seaweed and sand.
It would grow well in a pot or in a semi-shaded position in the garden.
Interesting facts about sea parsley...
Did you know that sea parsley was actually an important vegetable for early Australian explorers. Captain Cook collected bulk amounts at Botany Bay to ward off scurvy.
Early settlers around Albany in Western Australia grew it as a hardy vegetable, but it has never really been grown commercially.
Although sea parsley is an annual, it has a robust tap root like a carrot, which gives it a semi-perennial capacity. It also self-seeds readily after it's summer flowering.
Sea parsley is a native Australian herb that is rich in immune-boosting chlorophyll, anti-oxidants and vitamin C. Not only is it healthy to eat, but it's great on your skin too. It is used in the beauty industry as an ingredient to reducing inflammation of the skin, treat acne and help with skin regeneration.
It is quite easy to make your own natural face care products such as this simple non-drying mask.
Home made wild parsley face mask for oily skin.
- finely chop a handful of parsley
- mix it with 2 tsp of cold pressed apple cider vinegar
- stir in a teaspoon of raw honey
Put it on your face for 5 minutes and gently wash off with warm water.
(Note: you could use normal parsley for this if you can't find sea parsley)