Cakile arctica, is an Icelandic subspecies of the Brassicaceae family, which is very common on the sandy shores of South Iceland, it contributed to the diet of Icelanders, who did not have a lot of vegetables available which contained vitamin C. The leaves are fleshy and edible as well as the roots. The plant reproduces itself very easily with bean-like fruits which float in the wind. It has been more or less abandoned as food base after food began to be imported and produced in greenhouses. There is a long history of people in South Iceland using fjörukál, which was known under different names where "kál" means cabbage, and it was used in the same way as skarfakál where it could not grow due to the environmental conditions (no fertile soil, no cliffs). Fjörukál needs salty water to thrive but does not have as high of a vitamin C content as skarfakál.
It has been mentioned in the districts of South Iceland where the shore is very sandy, since the mid 17th century but certainly has a much longer history as it is reported in "Íslenskir Sjávarhættir" by Lúðvík Kristjánsson.
It was picked in early summer while tender, and then fermented with or without salt. The plant is still common, but like skarfakál, it is endangered due to more invasive plants which grow in the sand. It was considered a food of the poor in the 19th century, even though it saved the population in the south of Iceland during the disastrous eruption of the Laki volcano in 1783.
Fjörukál has a pronounced cabbage taste, and it was used in soups and as a side dish. It was first fermented in hot water, the juice was blended with water or whey, and the rest was used in porridge, usually with barley, or with skyr in order to extend its shelf life.
Young cooks today have rediscovered it and use it as a vegetable, bringing the iodine and cabbage taste to the plate – and vitamin C, even though scurvy has disappeared. The culinary value is much higher now than what it was in the past centuries, and fjörukál was used almost exactly in the same way that skarfakál was, in the places where skarfakál could not thrive.Back to the archive >