At this time of the year you might have seen a cardboard box full of seaweed looking like green vegetables (or what are they?) in the produce section, next to the mushrooms and wondered what on earth is this? Apparently edible, but what do they taste like and what to do with them?
They are sea beans
(Salicornia europea, S. herbacea). Salicornia, or sea bean, is from the Latin words for salt and horn. They are saline plants with hornlike branches, also known as Glasswort, Sea Asparagus, or Sea Pickle.
Crispy and salty
Sea beans are mild seashore succulents that grow in abundance along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and feed on salt water. Pleasantly deep-sea tasting and crunchy, they are similar to brined baby string beans or asparagus. They are sold in spring through early summer when the shoots are large enough to have some substance but before the central core begins to get woody. Slightly older plants need to be steamed or boiled. They turn orange-red in the fall.
How to use
Select plants that are firm and bright. Toss young raw sea beans into salads for fresh saline crunch, or use as a trail nibble, or attractive garnish. At the tail end of their one-week refrigerator shelf life, older sea beans can be revived with a five-minute soak in ice water.
By Åsa Paul-Johansson
On the Lime – Raw Foods
Fort Lauderdale area, Florida