Spear leaved Orache is a dusty green leaf that is commonly found on and near the beach. Coastal tracks will lead you to this salty wild treat. The first time we encountered to wild edible leaf was on a coastal foraging excursion to the west coast of Ireland with our foodie friend Denis. He would often stop and taste the delicacies of the land: samphire, dulce and chamomile were definitely on the list but then we stumbled upon Orache and he told me to try some. I was blown away.
This is the salty spinach I wanted to add to every soup dish I had tried so thanks to Denis we made a new discovery and have been using Orache to experiment ever since.
What is Orache?
Orache is a green plant that loves to grow in saline laced sand and coastal areas. It is also know as Atriplex (A.prostrata)
How to Identify and Eat Orache Leaves
The spear headed leaves and the coastal location makes this tasty plant easy enough to identify.
There is a look-a-like plant called lambs quarter which is also an edible cousin of this plant but not as salty and mostly found near woodland.
The leaves are arrow like triangular shaped.
You can eat Orache leaves raw in a salad or fry them up in a little olive oil. Substitute it for some of your spinach recipes.
When to eat Orache?
Forage the young leaves in late March and April. They maintain their saltiness while also having sweeter tones that are easy to digest when raw. Harvest the mature leaves in summer time. I snip the leaves in the summer months, leaving the stems for wildlife to nibble on.
You are never guaranteed to get warm weather when walking by the shore in Ireland. Raindrops comes in all shapes and sizes, tiny drops that sprinkle the ground, sideways rain that catches you off guard, warm drizzling rain that soaks you to the bone but all of these weather conditions combine to make it extra rewarding with you stumble upon some unique culinary treats.
From fresh mussels clinging to the sides of rock pools to the shy winkles hiding beneath the brown seaweed. You will find everything you need for a warm cup of seafood chowder along the Irish coastline. My first coastal foraging excursion was fruitful.
As a child my mother would buy us small plastic buckets and short fishing rods to scoop out the seaweed from the giant rockpools all along the Co.Clare coastlines. Picking was part of every stage of growing up. From child to adolescent I made the transition from bucket to bag and back again when picking along the shore.
My grandfather would take the whole family to a nearby beach and we would eagerly wait until the tide had gone fully out, revealing the rockpools, seaweed and most importantly the shellfish hiding underneath. The art of picking was simple, patience was the only real skill required.
Myself and my sister would spend hours scanning the shallow pools of water for the biggest winkles, crabs and mussels. Although all of the shellfish that we scoured for were easily identifiable, not all were easy to find.
Winkles were the easiest to collect. They tend to roll with the tide so it was not a matter of searching for them but more time was spent deciding on which ones to collect. I never tool the baby ones. This was my one rule for collecting winkles. Once you have avoiding the baby shells you can enjoy scooping out large handfuls of winkles alons most shorelines.
When it came to crabs I was always a little nervous to pick them up. Their claws would reach right out to stab pinch you if you were too quick. Sometimes we would just play with them for awhile before placing them carefully back in were they belonged. Laughing as they scrambled off to find their pals. Mussels were always considered the biggest treat. They clung tightly to the edges of rocks, making it more difficult to pull them off. Nothing can beat a pot of fresh mussels cooked in garlic and tomato juices. Give it a try. Believe me you won’t be disappointed.
Why not try a spot of razor clam hunting while you are by the shore. Simply bring some salt on your journey and seek out the small holes in the beach. Pour in the salt and watch in awe as the razor clams come to life.
Other favourites of mine include kelp and seaweed. These make delicious additions to salads. You can also use them to enhance the flavour of any seafood dish.
DON’T let the weather prevent you from your next adventure. Remember that a little rain never hurt anyone. If you happen to get a sunny day then take advantage of it, spending a few hours by the shore.
LEAVE enough for others. Everyday we hear warnings of over fishing so be mindful of this when you are foraging by the sea. Only pick enough for one days pickings, giving the shores time to replenish its goods over time.
WEAR suitable clothing. This is key to any foraging adventure. Waterproof shoes comes in handy when you playing in rockpools. Also, bring a spare pair of socks to keep your feet dry.
KNOW the tides. Most countries will offer websites that give you the times of the tidal currents. Keep a close eye on these. You don’t want to venture all the way to the beach to find that you have to wait five hours until the tide recedes.
DON’T be afraid of seaweed or crabs. The waves may look rough but the sea is gentle with many varieties of produce to try. You never know what treasures you will find.
When people think of Coastal Foraging they often only consider the varieties of seaweeds and shellfish on offer but believe us, the wild edible plants growing by the seaside will give you plenty of food for thought. Conditions by the coast can make it difficult for some commonly found plants to survive. Strong winds and high tides are no match for these sturdy plants.
Here are just a few of our favourite wild edible plants to forage for by the sea:
First and foremost is the dark green wild plant of Sea beet. This healthy green will greet you alongside sandy and rocky beaches across Europe. Like spinach the leaves can be added to stir-fry’s, used as a bed for your fish dishes and are a delicious vitamin full addition to your breakfast smoothies.
Ox Eye Daisies
You can’t miss this friendly edible plant. In the past Ox Eye Daisies were used to treat coughs, asthma, ulcers and to clear sinus problems. It is a diuretic and a tonic. The flowers can be pickled or covered in batter and the young leaves can be used in a summer salad.
Looking for a homegrown supply of tasty greens to add to salads and dishes than sea radish is a great alternative source of greens that can be foraged all year round. This yellow headed grows in coastal areas and shines brightly in the summer months. The leaves work well in pesto recipes and the small pods are a great addition to summer salads.
Be careful not to confuse yarrow for other poisonous plants such as hemlock. Both have white heads for flowers but there are two distinguishing features of Yarrow to look out for. First the glimpses of yellow in the flower heads and next the unmistakable fern-like leaves. They usually grow in groups and pop up in wasteland, countryside trails and along coastal pathways.
This coastal friend is a member of the mustard family. With great amounts of Potassium, calcium and Vitamin B this plant can provide a welcome boost to the immune system and all parts of the sea rocket plant are edible. This wild plant holds water and its hard, fleshy leaves make it easier to withstand any harsh coastal climate. Herbalists love to speak about the health benefits of this common wild plant.
We hope that you enjoy discovering these wild edible plants and find others to add to your favourite dishes. The great thing about foraging is that the land changes with the seasons are there are different plant varieties to be discovered throughout the year.