Maritime herb growing to a height of 2 ft (60 cm). Has long, succulent, bright green leaves and clusters of small yellowish-green flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Sea fennel grows on the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Black Sea coasts of Europe and Asia Minor. It is found on rocks and cliffs close to the sea, and gathered in early summer.
Sea fennel contains a volatile oil, pectin, vitamins (especially vitamin C), and minerals.
History & Folklore
A much-valued herb in the past, sea fennel fell into disfavor but is slowly becoming popular again as a vegetable, either pickled or eaten fresh. The English herbalist John Gerard described it in 1597 as “the pleasantest sauce, most familiar, and best agreeing with man’s body, both for the digestion of meates, breaking of stone, and voiding of gravel.”
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Though it is currently little used in herbal medicine, sea fennel is a good diuretic, and it has potential as a treatment for obesity. Sea fennel has a high vitamin C and mineral content, and is thought to relieve flatulence and soothe the digestion. In this, the plant resembles its inland namesake, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). Glasswort (Salicornia europeae), also known as samphire, is an unrelated coastal plant with a high mineral content and is commonly eaten as a vegetable.