Wild coastal greens are popping up on plates in restaurants all around Australia. But do you know your warrigal greens from your barilla? Let's hit the beach.
"It's amazing how much food and medicine you can come across below your feet," says winemaker and market gardener Tim Webber. "It's no wonder Australian chefs are using what's right before our very eyes more and more often." Webber was one-half of the team that opened Sydney wine bar Love, Tilly Devine; he has cooked at Sean's Panaroma and foraged for restaurants including Africola and Ester. He and his partner, Monique Millton, now make Manon wine in the Adelaide Hills. When it comes to identifying coastal greens, Webber suggests familiarising yourself with a key half a dozen plants to start.
"Try before you buy," he says. Samphire is a salty green with a bitter edge - "the beachside wine-drinker's pickle of choice". Together with seablite, it shares its habitat with warrigal greens, an iron-rich spinach abundant along the east coast of New South Wales and into Victoria, where it's gradually replaced by barilla. You may have seen samphire tossed through Kylie Kwong's yabbies and XO sauce, or seablite atop stracciatella at Automata, but you can keep beach-plant cooking far simpler at home by tossing them into a fish pan at the very last minute with nothing more than olive oil and lemon.
Another go-to among chefs such as Jock Zonfrillo and David Moyle is the robustly flavoured saltbush, which is great fried and served over beef or kangaroo. "It's from the same family as quinoa, amaranth, beets and chard and is amazing with an ice-cold beer," says Webber. Karkalla's succulent banana-shaped leaves have a beautiful lemony tang, while sea parsley is "like celery intensified by 100, then dipped in salt". Sounds like summer to us. For a list of distributors, visit outbackpridefresh.com.au