Sea Aster (Aster tripolium) is one of the wild foods of the moment in the UK, thanks partly to patronage by celebrity chefs and partly due to Waitrose stocking it on its shelves.
It is a pretty flower that grows in coastal areas or places where there is plenty of salt in the environment. The leaves are fleshy and have an unusual sweet and salty flavour. They can be eaten both fresh and cooked. Personally, I like them slightly wilted. They can be added to any recipe where you would normally use spinach.
In the recipe below I have substituted Sea Aster for spinach in a classic recipe from Rome, Italy.
Roman-style Sea Aster
1.3kg sea aster leaves, washed and trimmed
3 tbsp olive oil
100g pignoli (pine nuts)
1 garlic clove, mashed
2 tsp lemon juice
black pepper, to taste
Cut any large sea aster leaves into pieces then heat the oil in a large, deep, frying pan or wok. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden then add the spinach, garlic, lemon juice and black pepper to taste. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes or until the spinach is barely tender. Serve immediately with pasta or gnocci (roast potato gnocci are excellent).