Andreas Buben

Zeekool - Carambe maritima

A Cabbage with an Ocean twist

As the name Zeekool or sea kale suggests, this halophytic plant is part of the cabbage family. It is a salt-loving perennial that appears in coastal sands and dikes of northwestern north sea coasts and along the Atlantic coasts. The plant has a cabbage-like appearance, with wavy leaf edges and a dark green-gray color. Its leaves are succulent and waxy, giving it a distinct look. The leaves are very tolerant to salty sea spray, but the roots are sensitive to excessive salinities. Towards winter, the leaves die off. What remains of the plant is the underground tap root, from which young pale shoots sprout. (Gunning, 2016) This etiolation only happens when they are covered with enough sand or an artificial cover, to prevent sunlight from reaching the leaves.   


Zeekool - Zeekool in the flowering state Martin Stevens (2014) Zeekool, Crambe maritima, Wikimedia commons

Culinary use

For culinary purposes the young pale shoots are preferred. They are considered to have a nutty, slightly bitter taste, compared to the green stalks and leaves, which taste rather reminiscent of kale. Both can be consumed raw, but the young shoots tend to be blanched or steamed like asparagus.

Medicinal properties

The sea specific kale is rich in vitamins, such as vitamin C and B11. Last supports the production of new cells and tissue. Fibers, mineral salts, sulfur and iodine. The content sulfur heteroside is recognised to have anticancer properties. Preventing viral infections, being antiseptic, antifungal and being used for healing wounds are the most prominent healing properties of this plant. 

Way to grow

Seakale prefers well drained, rich, sandy soils. Often it is cultivated from cuttings or from seed. Seeds can be sown in the aquaponics greenhouse from march onward. Leaves should be harvested when they reach a height of 20-30 cm.