We asked Mark Williams what had been his most memorable discovery in his career as a forager.
MW: I had a very memorable moment when I was up north, working with a chef in a beautiful coastal glen by the sea. We were on this bit of salt marsh, and I was trying to show him sea plantain Plantago maritima. This is a misidentification story too…
I picked what I thought was sea plantain and I was like, ‘Taste that, that’s great.’ And he was like, ‘Oh my God that’s amazing. It tastes of coriander!’ And I had to taste it myself because I never expected that.
Then we looked very closely and it was a slightly different type of grass. We had this really exciting half an hour where we learned to recognise the differences in the shapes of these two grasses that look almost identical, at a glance, or certainly when you’re starting out.
It turns out this was sea arrowgrass, Triglochin maritima, which is not in any of the foraging guidebooks. It’s not even considered to be edible in a wider sense, because if you eat too much of the green parts of leaves, it’s not particularly good for you. Like a lot of other things that we eat regularly. In small doses, which is all you need, it’s pretty good to eat.
It’s really surprising to have a grass that tastes really succulent of cucumber and coriander! We don’t get wild coriander up in Scotland so it’s a nice treat to have a coriander taste.
Watch a field recording of first timers and foragers finding and tasting sea arrowgrass on Islay >
Find it in estuaries and salt marshes. New shoots appear in April and we were still finding spires of seed heads on the shore near the distillery in October.