Sea Parsley - Parsley with a punch!
Sea Parsley (Sea Celery or Apium prostratum) occurs all along the southern coastline of Australia. Its leaf form and plant dimensions vary quite considerably from place to place, but most commonly it has an appearance of shiny dark green parsley. As it grows right on the coastline it is often submerged by the incoming storm tides where it grows in composted sea weed and sand, giving it its special flavour.
We like to think of these as mini celery plants. They look like celery and taste a bit like it too. Treat them like an herb or vegetable. Although sea parsley is a close relative to the European version of parsley, it packs a more peppery punch and has much more flavour and health benefits too. In fact it was used by early Australian settlers in the prevention of scurvy.
It was cultivated by colonists around Albany, Western Australia, as a vegetable.
◎ Common Name: Sea Parsley, Sea Celery
◎ Scientific or Latin Name: Apium prostratum
◎ Comparison: Parsley
◎ Seasonality: All year fresh
◎ Region: Widely Grown
◎ Taste Profile: Sea parsley has a peppery aftertaste that ordinary parsley doesn’t have. It has a celery-parsley taste with a huge amount of salty pepper.
◎ Types: There are two varieties: Apium prostratum var. filiforme – headland sea celery, is squat with broad leaves (2-3 times longer than wide) and grows on coastal dunes and headlands. Apium prostratum var. prostratum – mangrove sea celery, is upright with fine leaves (6-15 times longer than wide) and grows in swamps.
- Sea Parsley is rich in immune-boosting chlorophyll, antioxidants & skin-soothing nutrients.
- Its anti-irritant qualities make it ideal for after-sun care & sensitive skin types.
- It has a high Vitamin C content which also makes it a great addition to smoothies and fruit drinks to give you an extra shot of Vitamin C.
Aboriginal & Traditional
Captain Cook used this herb to stave off scurvy, and for many early settlers it was a “survival food” and a source of greens when first coming to Australia. This small herb looked familiar, it itself is a relative of the parsley we all use in our garnishes for soups and stock. This is not to say it wasn’t used by the First Nation people, but they had the whole supermarket to use, not just the European aisle of familiarity.
Western & Modern
Sea Celery is a great addition to soups, stocks and flavouring quiches. It is quite a strong herb reminiscent of Italian parsley so use sparingly so the flavours blend but not overwhelm. This herb is useful in dressings, flavoured butter, with seafood and in white sauces.
Both the leaf and stem are eaten. Dried leaves are also used in native Australian spice mixes.
Current research has shown sea parsley to contain high levels of phenolic contents and strong antioxidant activities. Sea Parsley contains several phenolic compounds that hold potential therapeutic effects for human health. It contains apiin and apigenin in high concentrations which could hold potential therapeutic effects on certain diseases like diabetes and cancer. Further studies are needed to develop the medicinal use of Sea Parsely.
Note: The term 'Bush Tucker' and 'Bush Food' are not Warndu's preferred terms for Australian Native Ingredients or Australian Botanicals.
Images: © Luisa Brimble