Among edible wild herbs, halophytes include salt-resistant plants equipped with well-defined adaptive mechanisms that enable them not only to withstand periodic high salinity but also to complete their entire life cycles at high salinity. Wild or partially domesticated halophytes already exist in virtually all regional ecosystems, especially in the Mediterranean basin. Among halophytes, Crithmum maritimum L., commonly known as sea fennel, rock samphire or St. Peter’s herb, grows spontaneously along coastlines and is particularly abundant in Mediterranean countries, including Italy, North Africa, Croatia, Turkey, and Greece. This plant has several usage areas, such as culinary, medicine, and cosmetics, because of its nutrient and phytochemical contents (Ashaolu & Reale, 2020). Due to the acknowledged high content of vitamin C, the consumption of sea fennel was particularly common among seafarers as a valuable aid for the prevention of scurvy.
In addition to vitamin C, the succulent leaves of this spontaneous halophyte contain high levels of numerous bioactive compounds, such as flavonoids, carotenoids, polyphenols, and antioxidant compounds. To date, approximately thirty substances have been identified in sea fennel essential oils. The trade of this spontaneous herb was very popular all over Europe until the early 1900s; however, its indiscriminate harvest determined its disappearance in various European coastal areas. Forgotten for a long time, this highly aromatic herb has recently been rediscovered, having been defined as a “cash crop” due to its high economic potential or, more recently, as an “emerging vegetable crop”.