Who would have thought that sea beet growing by the sea loves salty soil so much that it doesn't even grow on any other soil as a self-sown plant? And also, who would have figured that it is not only the predecessor of all cultivars of beet but also of Swiss chard? But it’s no use overthinking it, just looking at it and tasting it is enough. The plant—together with other wild plants, predecessors of cultivated plants, that still grow around us, such as wild carrots, yet we only eat the domesticated ones—can teach us that all cultivated plants originate from wild ones. The difference is obvious: cultivated plants are bigger, softer and crunchier than their wild ancestors and their taste is milder. The other difference is not visible, but we can feel it. Wild ones have more nutrients and make us feel very lively. So let’s combine both worlds, which are after all more or less the same one, and taste and experience what we ate when we weren't here yet.
Botany classifies plants growing only in saline conditions and nowhere else as halophytes. All of these plants are edible and have a very specific appearance and even more specific taste and aromas. As one might assume, they are naturally salty. Interestingly enough, we can find more species in one place along the short Slovenian coast than on all other parts of the Adriatic coast combined, including its attractive islands. As it happens, unlike the predominantly rocky coast of the Adriatic Sea, we have quite some sand and some abandoned coastal land so that plants can flourish there in peace. However, it is worth mentioning that it is not allowed to gather these plants in the Sečovlje Salina Nature Park and the Strunjan Nature Park because these are protected natural areas. But the parks can be an excellent place to hone our halophyte recognition skills that we can use when foraging elsewhere.
Let’s pick sea purslane, herbaceous seepweed, common glasswort and shrubby glasswort, and perhaps also sea aster, rock samphire and golden samphire. Spear-leaved orache and sea beet are probably not far away either. All these miracles of nature can be cooked like Swiss chard, but they are also excellent raw in salads. We can also come up with other ways to prepare them, since hunger is of a permanent nature, if not our only true nature.
Basic sea beet with shrubby glasswort: steam them (strip the cooked stems of samphire away from the hard pith), dress with olive oil and don't forget to add garlic or wild garlic. The plants are salty so don't add any salt.
Halophytes with eggs, including aromatic sea aster, are an easy dish: cut the plants, soften in hot fat and add two or three eggs. When they are fried, sprinkle sea aster on top and wait for it to become somewhat brown and change, although not completely, its herbal aroma. Once again, don’t add salt, as the plants are already salty.
He is a proud pack leader, who everyday leads his pack out for a walk; well actually the pack leads him for a walk. He is a professionally educated path follower, because he gets lost all the time and therefore always finds his own paths to take. His occupation is a mountaineer and/or Laze-mountaineer, because he lives in Dolgi Laz, which is so long that you can't see the end of it. He likes to spend his time in company of plants and mushrooms and passionately loves to eat without ever stopping. He also wrote some books about this.