By Mike on Sunday, April 1, 2012, 16:05 - Permalink
Wall Pennywort, also known as Navelwort, is a common plant on coastal cliffs, stone walls and banks, especially in the southwest of England.
What Is Wall Pennywort?
Umbilicus rupestris - A small perennial plant producing rosettes of slightly wavy, disc-shaped leaves with a distinctly dimpled centre (where the stalk attaches) - giving them a navel-like appearance that is the reason for both the botanical name and some of the common ones too.
The succulent, fragile leaves are typically pale to jade green and up to about 10cm across.
The best leaves for foraging will be found on plants growing in more moist conditions (fortunately this is quite frequent, as it's not uncommon to find springs of water seeping or dripping from rock faces and stone banks) - and as long as they're fresh and green-looking, the bigger leaves are just as good as the small ones - they don't really seem to get tough or fibrous.
Picking Pennywort is a bit like gathering small mushrooms (which the leaves do superficially resemble) - the stalks are softly fragile and this makes it easy to snap away leaves with a short piece of stalk attached.
Plants growing in mossy earth may only be rooted quite weakly - in which case care should be taken not to uproot them in their entirety.
Find a spot where the growth is abundant and pick one or two leaves from each individual plant - not only does this minimise the environmental impact of your foraging, but it also allows you to select the best-looking leaves for your salad.
In The Kitchen
The plant has a flavour quite similar to crisp lettuce, although with an additional cucumber-melon sweetness and a slight salty-acidic tang that, all together, makes it a top-notch wild salad.
I picked this pennywort on a short break in Minehead, Somerset - and although the self catering facilities in my accommodation were quite ample, I decided to keep it simple and play on the similarity to lettuce and made myself a Bacon, Pennywort and Tomato sandwich - a BPT!