The Backyard Larder

A place to explore and buy perennial vegetables and other food plants.

The Silverwhips of Staithes

Here are the promised photos of the ‘silverwhips’ of Staithes, taken on my recent visit.

Wild cabbage, Staithes

Silverwhips is the Staithes name for wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea) according to tour guide company Real Staithes. The curators in the amazing local museum hadn’t heard of the name, but I found references to it in a book on Staithes dialect by Arthur Stanley Umpleby written in 1935. And he used the word in his dialect poem, Ballade of Staithes:

“Ah like ti gan ti Steeas i spring,
That’s t’tahm sha allus leeaks er best;
When t’mizzle-thrush an blackis sing,
An t’cuddy bigs er lahl roond nest:
When t’scented breeze blaws oot o’ t’west,
An t’primrooases leeaks up to t’shooer,
When Awkness trees wi blossom’s drissed,
An t’silverwhips is oot i flooer.”

Do you live in Staithes, or come from there? Have you ever heard of the wild cabbage being called silverwhips?

Wild cabbage, Staithes

Other common names for wild cabbage are sea cabbage, cliff cabbage and monk’s cabbage. It has been recorded in ninety-eight 10km x 10km squares in Britain.

In Staithes it seems to grow everywhere! Up the creek…

Wild cabbage, Staithes

and down the creek:

In the gardens….

Wild cabbage, Staithes


Wild cabbage, Staithes

At the top of the cliff….

Wild cabbage, Staithes

and at the bottom:

Wild cabbage, Staithes

Even halfway up…..

Wild cabbage, Staithes

The Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora describes Brassica oleracea as ‘a perennial herb, found as an apparent native on sea-cliffs’. ‘Apparent’ native because it looks like a wild plant but is probably an escape in the British Isles. This draws on the work of Dr Neil Mitchell (see Appendix E of his paper) who noted that the plant mostly grew in association with coastal towns and villages and spread out from there. (There is also a good summary of his work here along with the wider story of wild cabbage too.)

I saw quite a bit of variety in the wild plants……

I collected lots of seed to grow in the garden of course! (See previous wild cabbage posts for details of gardening with this plant).

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