Sea fennel (Crithmum maritimum L.) is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the family of umbrellas originating in the Mediterranean European regions. It is the only species of the genus Crithmum.
Systematically the marine fennel belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, the Kingdom Plantae, the Magnoliophyta Division, the Magnoliopsida Class, the Apiales Order, the Apiaceae Family, and then the Crithmum Genus and the Species C. maritimum.
The etymology of the name is not quite certain. In any case, the term crithmum derives more from the Greek crithe, that is: barley for the similarity of the fruit by form and shell to a barley bean; however, with this name and reference, the plant has crossed the centuries. The term indicating the species, maritimum, clearly refers to its habitat. Another origin of the name is the one derived from Greek Krithmon or Krethmon, alluding to the fleshy leaves, deeply engraved. In Italian the most common name is marine fennel. They are also fairly frequent, however, those of splitting or franking and we cretate, criticize, criticize maritime, crite, critmo, that you want to. Also worth mentioning is the names of bacicci, marina and St. Peter’s grass. The name of St. Peter’s Grass, most common in truth for all other species, makes it probable that the saint is patron of fishermen and they used the plant. In fact, Renaissance herbs called it Petrus crescentius.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Crithmum maritimum is widespread in the coastal areas of southern and western Europe along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, North America, and Central and West Asia. We often find it on the cliffs and even on the piers. In Italy it is very much present especially on the coasts of all regions. It is not officially regarded as a medicinal plant and is not under protection.
The plan, which forms its own associations, the critics, which, as said, are typically mediterranean, along the coasts also goes to the Atlantic, even to England and Scotland. It is the typical coastal ecosystem where it is mainly associated with the Limonium, but also the Cakile, sometimes Seseli tortuosum, as well as higher, as the effects of the waves and salty vapors are attenuated, appear more attractive species such as The Cineraries, the Violets, the Lotus, and the Centaurs.
Crithmum maritimum behaves like a desert plant and resists very well to salty and hot, even though it lives directly on the sea. Crithmum is in fact a plant perfectly equipped to live in a highly salty, prohibitive species for species that have not developed a robust cuticle suitable for defending internal juices from dehydration, as they are used to doing the typical desert species.
Sea fennel is an alofite plant, which lives close to the sea, often also in the crack of the rock; It is rhomatous, perennial, with very robust and branched bones, lignified at the base, with a height ranging from 30 to 60 cm.
It is an aromatic plant, perennial, glabra, with a stubborn, leguminous stem at the base, with several herbaceous branches, ascending, glaucous green color. Fleshy leaves, 1-3 pennatoette, lanceolate-linear segments, whole margin, glaucous green color, sometimes more or less softened with red, larger bases.
The flowers are gathered in very small umbrellas, color from white to yellowish; Bloom from July to September.
The fruits are of ovoid shape, formed by two branches. The whole plant is strongly and pleasantly aromatic.
Sea fennel is an alofitic plant, it prefers, as has been said, coastal temperate climates, as it grows spontaneously close to the sea across the Mediterranean basin, the Black Sea, on the Atlantic coasts in the Irish, Scottish and North American coasts . The best exposures are coastal environments in the sun, the plant is sensitive to low winter temperatures but resists the saline winds. The criterion prefers the sandy, pebbly, saline and rocky soils, is able to develop on the beaches, walls and cliffs of the reefs, and hides the lands under water stagnation.
Like all spontaneous species, it is also possible to cultivate it for both personal and corporate purposes.
Sea fennel multiplies by seed or by division of cespi obtained from rhizomes, the seeds can also be spread by the sea itself. Direct seeding takes place on a well-matured seed bed in September, 30 cm plant distances are recommended between the rows and the row, with a density of 10-11 plants per square meter. In the spring, seedlings can be grown in the ground, otherwise they can be picked up in the wall or potters’ slits. The latter is recommended in colder winters because the plants are placed in the areas repaired. The planting of the bones obtained from the rhizomes takes place in the spring.
The slaughterhouse is cultivated in orchards or in family gardens and in the field on small areas on land that falls in coastal areas. During the cultivation cycle weeds are controlled by making some weeding between the files or manual screeds in the case of gardens or family gardens (avoiding the use of herbicides, general rule, and which has even less sense in plants to reintroduce for a Agriculture which represents a revival of a new eco-sustainable agricultural model). The seaweed does not need fertilization, during the summer some watering is performed even though this plant is extremely resistant to drought because its leaves are covered externally by a cuticle layer that limits water leaks for breathability.
As far as harvesting, leaves and shoots are collected from May until before flowering, after this phase they become too fond of; Usually fresh ones are used but they can be dried directly under the sun or in vinegar to make sure they lose the bitter note.
Umbrella inflorescences are cut short before the ripening of the seeds, which is reached by placing them on a tray in a sheltered, dry, and well-ventilated environment. They are then separated from the seeds that are stored in glass containers.
Uses and Traditions –
The species is almost obscure or at least neglected today, but in the past it has been widely used in cooking and medicine, as well as an intense trade as a medicinal plant, and despite this, its collection was in some very dangerous areas. Dioscoride described the plant and its properties and the same made authors of different countries at different times. The critic was even quoted by Shakespeare in King Lear: “Half-way down Hangs one that gathers the samphire; Dreadful trade! “, Halfway down the white cliffs of Dover falls to the one who collects St Peter’s grass, a terrible job!”
British botanist William Turner described it as “Creta marina”, a name he was known for his contemporary naturalists, including John Gerard, who called him “a delightful scent, delicate on the palate, though of the flavor that most people find salty” .
Another confirmation of its current food consumption comes from Bromfield, who reports that the owner of the Freshwater Castle, on whose Crithmum maritimum walls growing abundantly, demanded a heavy tribute to authorize its harvest. Moreover, commercial exploitation had reached such a diffusion that many naturalists denounced the progressive disappearance of some coastal areas caused by the indiscriminate collection of local populations.
In the Roman era Plinio called him, like his fellow citizens, with the name of “Batide” and declared himself to be laxative action “Pestandola crude gets a good preparation against gout.” The description we provide is as usual impeccable: The Critmo, is highly praised by Hippocrates. It is one of those wild herbs that are eaten and it is definitely this which according to Callimaco is served by the peasant Ecale in Teseo. Its appearance is that of the Elae’s garden; The stem is unique and tall with a palm; The spicy seed is smelling like the Lebanon (Cachiris libanotis), rounded: when it is dry, it crumbles. It internally contains a hazy kernel, some called Cacri.
In the last century, the indiscriminate gathering for commerce for food use had caused its disappearance in Liguria, to Nice.
Many of its properties and possible uses, thanks to the various and good substances contained in the leaves and fruits, from essential oils to vitamin C, from iodine to beta-carotene, etc.: aromatic, antiscorbutic, aperitif, diuretic, digestive, Carminative, anti-spasmodic, etc. To get the best of its qualities, raw leaves were consumed. The sailors appreciated in particular their anti-crushing properties, and therefore the plant was harvested and marketed raw in the Mediterranean area.
At other times the plant was used to extract the soda. For its essential oil it is still used today in cosmetics to prepare perfumes, soaps and creams.
In the past, the critics, as seen, were largely employed because of their therapeutic properties, but are currently not used and known. This essence promotes digestive processes by stimulating gastric and biliary secretion, decreases intestinal fermentation, thus contributing to alleviating pain, stimulating diuresis, purging blood from toxins and refuse, carries vermifuge action against parasites Intestinal and fights rachitism.
The presence in the Critmum maritimum of medicinal principles was only found in a very recent age, although its membership of the Ombrellifer family should have attributed to it at least the stimulating, diuretic and aperitif prerogatives of many of its confreres.
In fact, its close kinship with a species definitely medicinal as the Fennel, also transpires from the already quoted national vernacular baptism also from the English “Sea fennel” by the German “Seefenkel”.
The spicy, slightly salty flavor and a scent very similar to that of Fennel make it still appreciate the fleshy leaves, both in salads and in aromatic sauces, cooked in butter as a funnel or preserved in vinegar.
It is an edible plant, it is good for the fish. In the area of Ancona, the plant is known as a pacifier and is very much appreciated as a dish for fish dishes, seasoning pasta or even pizza or growing; The leaves are bled in water and vinegar (or wine) until they change color and then put in oil. The problems associated with spontaneous plant harvesting, protected by the Conero Park regulations, can easily be overcome by cultivating the plant in pots or in the garden.
In Salento it is useful to preserve under vinegar raw but slightly fried leaves of marine fennel: in the area it is called salisian. Great is pastel (water and flour) and fried. Use only the most discreet leaflets, eliminating the supporting support. The pancake has a flavor that recalls the stem of fried artichoke.
In Corsica, however, an essential oil is obtained.
As an umbrellifer you should use a lot of prudence in harvesting to avoid confusing it with toxic species, but it is a plant characteristic of habitat, appearance and bearing, so it is difficult to confuse it with other species.
Methods of Preparation –
Cooking in the kitchen was a frequent time, at least in many marine communities. The leaves, with a strongly aromatic and salty taste, between fennel and celery, slightly spicy, have been used (and can still do so today) in soups, such as asparagus, cooked with butter or for preparing sauces or seasoning; Is the most frequent use.
To flavor foods, and in particular fish dishes, the plant is collected in several coastal areas of the Peninsula, including Puglia and Sardinia, but it is used by Turkey to France, Spain and England. In this latter country is still harvested for trade while in several southern markets is stored in brine. Fresh leaves can be eaten, even in salad, with or without vinification with vinegar, but are more frequently preserved, in oil or in vinegar. Preparing in this way is considered a typical product in Leccese (a sort of gardener, to be added as a side dish, in sandwiches or in fillings). The leaves also prepare an intensely aromatic vinegar.
Today, very few gourmets are used to gather young shoots of this plant to eat cooked or preserved pickled.
In the kitchen fresh leaves, once washed, can be preserved pickled, cooked with butter, used as a salad garnish and as a seasoning for fish and meat dishes.
Seeds are used as spice or for the preparation of decoctions, dyes and medicinal wines.
But let us now see in the concrete some prepensions of a traditional nature as well.
Two handfuls of crithmum are picked, a few valerian leaves, a few leaves of rucoletta, dandelion and daisy, put in a bowl, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, salt and lemon juice. The dishes are garnished with margherite, dandelion and violet flowers.
You take 5 zucchini, wash, dry, release from the ends, cut to thin washers, put on a can of cloth to lose the vegetation water and then put in a salad with a handful of crithmum chopped leaves . It is seasoned with half a clove of garlic and a chopped parsley parsley, salt, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Mix and serve.
There are 4 potatoes, 2 onions, one carrot, one celery and a handful of cannellini beans, which have already been soaked. When cooking, the vegetables are drained and passed to the sieve. To this puree, 100 g of lightly baked flour is added to the oven. Mix, pour into a pan, dilute with boiling water, let boil for 5 minutes, add 2 chopped crithmum manchies, continue cooking for another 10 minutes, adjust salt and eventually Pour 3 tablespoons of grated cheese, mix and turn off the fire. Serve warm with toasted croutons and with a string of extra virgin olive oil.
Let’s pour a clove of garlic in a saucepan with 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, pour 300 g of rice, mix, merge half a glass of dry white wine, let it fade and add to hand The vegetable broth. For the past 5 to 6 minutes, combine 3 coarsely chopped Crithmum with crude chicken, mix and continue cooking. When you turn off the fire, add 4 tablespoons grated gruyère and one chopped parsley, mix well, let it rest for a minute and then use it.
Chopped half an onion and 2 cloves of garlic are poured into the pan with 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, then combine about 2 liters of water, half carrot chicken and half celery shrimp, 3 private puddings Of the outer film and seeds and cut into pieces and 200 g of cannellini beans, already previously soaked. Let it bake. Nearly finished cooking adds 2 pieces of crithmum tenderly cut into pieces. Adjust salt and chili pepper and serve with grated cheese.
Place a handful of coarse chopped crithmum leaves in a frying pan, a teaspoon of parsley, garlic smell, and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. You jump quickly all over, join 6 eggs, salt and, if you like, chili pepper, mix and let it bake.
Cake with Borage:
You take 500 grams of tender and young leaves of Crithmum leaves, weave, wash, bake to the tooth, drain and crumble. To this chop, join 500 grams of borage leaves quickly boiled in water and chopped, 100 g of fresh pecorino cheese in pieces, 100 g of ricotta, salt and chilli. Take the pasta brisè, make a leaf covering the bottom and the edges of a roasted pepper and sprinkled with breadcrumbs, pour the dough, cover with a smaller leaf and make the margins all around. It is put in the oven already hot at 180 ° C for 45 minutes.
You take 400g of Crithmum leaf sprigs, wash and bake with a large onion and about 300g of potatoes. They drain and turn into puree. To this is added a glass of bechamel, 5 yolks, salt q.b. Chili to taste. The whole thing is amalgamated and then five well-balanced snowboards combine. The mixture is poured into a baked mold and sprinkled with breadcrumbs, and baked in the oven, which is already hot at 180 ° C for about 45 minutes. It serves hot.
Take half a liter of vinegar, put in a saucepan with 2 cloves, 2 whole bay leaves and a nice thyme sprig, bring to boiling, turn off the fire, let it rest for a couple of minutes, Filtered and, still boiling, pours into a bowl where there are 300 g of young and tender Crithmum sprigs, blends, covers and leaves for 48 hours. Then the leaves of Crithmum are drained, seasoned with salt and extra virgin olive oil.
Take a handful of Crithmum crushed sprigs, put in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of green pepper in brine, a sage leaf, 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a spoon of pine nuts. It is drowned and reduced to homogeneous paste. It accompanies white-boiled fish.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health of the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and Experiences with Medicinal Herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (eds.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Attention: Pharmaceutical applications and surgical uses are indicated for information purposes only; they do not represent any prescription of a medical type; Therefore, no responsibility for their use for any curative, aesthetic or food use is considered.