When your mind is focused on setting up for a day at the beach, it can be easy to overlook the vegetation as you make your way to the sand. But next time you venture through the dunes, look down and you’ll probably spot a patch or two of beautiful sea purslane. This edible plant is not only delicious (when prepared properly), it is also native to Sanibel and plays an important role in Florida’s coastal ecosystem. Read on to learn more:
- Sea purslane is a perennial herb commonly found along coastal dunes in the southeastern United States, as well as Hawaii, the Caribbean, and many other coastal regions of the world.
- With deep pink stems and leaves ranging from pink to green, it can be found growing along the sand in large, sprawling mats just above the high tide line. Pink flowers sometimes bloom during the day.
- A high salt tolerance and an ability to adapt to changes in soil moisture make this plant well suited for life by the sea. The stems and leaves are waxy to prevent water loss.
- Sea purslane is completely edible and has a unique, salty flavor and a crunchy texture. It makes an excellent addition to salads (just be sure to rinse any sand off before eating!), or can be pickled, blanched, or sautéed. Check Google for recipes!
- This plant is high in Vitamin C, and may have been used to treat scurvy in the past. In some places, the smashed leaves have also been applied to wounds caused by venomous fish.
- Sea purslane has mild antifungal and antibacterial properties.
- Sea purslane plays an important role in helping to stabilize dunes, and is recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture to be planted as part of coastal dune restoration projects.
Simple is best when cooking with sea purslane. Add a few leaves to your dinner salad as a crunchy topping, or enjoy it lightly sautéed in butter or your favorite cooking oil with a pinch of pepper and a squeeze of lemon on top. It will cook quickly, in just one or two minutes on medium heat. No need to add salt!
Note: Please be sure that you have identified edible plants correctly, as many plants may be toxic. We recommend carrying a field guide or doing some research online, so that you are sure you have properly identified the plants – if you’re not 100% sure, don’t eat it - ask an expert!