SEA ASTERS - CULPEPER'S SEA STAR WORT: HISTORY OF USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS WITH RECIPE FOR SEA ASTERS AND SCALLOPS
SEA ASTER, ASTER TRIPOLIUM
The sea aster was known to Nicholas Culpeper the English herbalist of the 17th century as the Sea Star-wort. However in the previous century, John Gerard had called it tripolium, and had this to say about it:-
“It was reported by men of great fame and learning that it doth change the colour of his flowers thrice a day.”
It doesn’t, but it comes in a range of colours from white to lilac to a deep lilac and blue. The three great men-“tri-polis” (three citizens) were probably Hippocrates, Galen and Dioscorides, whom John Gerard relied heavily upon for his remedies.
He also said that it grew in the
Isle of Wight, (a small island off the south coast of Britain) and Battersea, near the Thames in London, although it doesn’t now.
The plant looks like a Michaelmas daisy, but it isn’t as that one blooms in September and the sea aster blooms from June through to October, depending upon where it grows. It is a member of the daisy or Asteraceae or Compositae family of plants so has many relatives such as pellitory or Roman chamomile, marigolds, purple goat’s beard (salsify), yellow goat’s beard, elecampane, the ox-eye daisy, holy thistles, costmary, tansy, feverfew, groundsel, fleabane and yarrow, to name but a few.
Aster means star, and it gets this name from the appearance of its flowers. There are several legends about asters, one being that Astraea, a goddess associated with the constellation of Virgo, left the Earth and looking down at it, wept sorrowful tears for it, which became asters. Another legend says that the goddess Virgo scattered stardust on the Earth and this turned into asters.
The leaves and stems of this plant are edible and may be substituted for marsh samphire. It is sometimes sold in fishmongers in
Britain. They can be pickled or used as a vegetable as in the recipe below.
The sea aster is a native of northern
Europe, including Britain and Ireland, and may also be found in North Africa and lake shores of Central Asia. It lives on rocky cliffs in crevices and in salt marshes.
Today is it used as a wash for the eyes and is said to be good for the sight. However this is what Nicholas Culpeper has to say about this plant which he called Sea Star wort; according to him it was an aphrodisiac and useful for a variety of complaints.
“Government and virtues. This is …under the dominion of Mercury. The leaves are accounted cooling, and good for burns, scalds, and inflammations, in any part. The seed is narcotic and soporiferous, and rarely used. A slight tincture or infusion of the plant promotes perspiration, and is good in feverish complaints. The juice boiled into a syrup with honey, is excellent in asthmatic complaints, and other disorders of the lungs; and outwardly applied is a cure for the itch, and other cutaneous disorders. A strong decoction given as a *glyster, with the addition of a little oil, eases those colicky pains which arise from the stone and gravel; on infusion of the leaves drank constantly in the manner of tea, is a strengthener, and provocative to #venery, and is supposed to be a cure for barrenness.”
SEA ASTER AND SCALLOPS
4 oz/ 200 gr. smoked salmon, shredded
3 oz butter
8 scallops, cleaned, corals removed from the white meat and the latter thinly sliced.
5 fl oz /150ml white wine
7 fl oz double (thick) cream
200 gr sea aster leaves and tender stems, or marsh samphire
Melt half the butter in a hot frying pan and add the thin slices of white scallop meat. Fry for one minute and be careful not to overcook it as, like squid and octopus, scallops are tough and rubbery if overcooked.
Remove from the pan and reserve.
In the same frying pan add the sea aster and fry for two to three minutes, tossing frequently.
Melt the remaining half of the butter in a clean frying pan over a medium heat and add the scallop corals and fry for 1 minute.
Add the white wine, and bring to simmering point. Simmer until the liquid has been reduced by half.
Add the cream and bring back to a simmer for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender.
Blend the coral mixture until smooth. Then pour this into the pan containing the sea aster, add scallop meat and smoked salmon slivers and gently heat through, so that the cream doesn’t boil.
Serve with pasta of your choice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.