Sea kale Crambe maritima

Sea kale is one of the few vegetables we really can call our own.

Unlike potatoes and carrots, it appears to be indigenous to the UK. In fact, so popular was it with our ancestors, that at one stage it became difficult to find. Now, however, it is making a comeback with foragers.

In summer it blooms with white flowers. As well reproducing by seed, sea kale can also grow from detached pieces of its root.

Distribution

Sea kale's stronghold in the south coast of England. It is also found along stretches of the East Anglian and Cumbrian coast. It can be found along Wales' northern beaches and in the extreme south-west of Scotland. It is thought that the construction of sea defences may have possibly caused the decline of this maritime flower in some areas, by destroying the shingle habitat on which it thrives. In other areas, however, it is on the increase - maybe because it is no longer as popular a foodstuff as it was in days gone by!

Habitat

Traditionally sea kale was found - and cultivated - on sandy and shingle beaches, above the high tide mark. Its found on dunes on rare occasions, but only where there's an underlying layer of shingle.

Best time to see

When it flowers in June and July.