Thursday, May 24, 2012

sea beans...............( salicornia )

mysterious green plants known as sea beans (or just 'greens' to native folks) are popping up and have becoming increasingly prominent at farmers markets and local foods driven restaurants throughout areas that have a good supply, especially here in the pacific northwest where washington state and oregon meet at the mouth of the columbia river…. I have been receiving buckets of these saline palate pounders from my local forager and finding them in the marshes of willapa bay……. although their scientific name is salicornia, they are frequently referred to by many names, including pickleweed, glasswort, drift seeds, sea asparagus, sea pickles, and marsh samphire…. found in the tidal flat areas, their vivid ultra-green stalks, which grow on salt marshes and beaches, have a crunchy texture and a briny flavor with a vegetal aftertaste that's been likened to asparagus (without the smelly pee)….. they can be eaten raw, but have a high sodium content, so often they are blanched to remove some of their saltiness….. sea beans can also be sautéed, steamed, pickled, and even battered and fried, yes fried…… I have been tossing them with meyer lemon juice and serving them with crispy wild caught spring chinook salmon skin for $15, or a thick piece of applewood smoked salmon belly over the same meyer lemon dressed sea beans- fricken yum…. salicornia is a genus of succulent, halophyte (salt tolerant)plants that grow in salt marshes, on beaches, and among mangroves…. salicornia species are native to north america… salicornia europaea is a highly edible wild edible, either cooked or raw…. in england it is one of several plants known as samphire; the term samphire is believed to be a corruption of the french name, herbe de saint-pierre, which means “st. peter's herb…..” samphire is usually steamed and then coated in butter or olive oil….. due to its high salt content, it must be cooked without any salt added, in plenty of water….. It has a hard stringy core, and after cooking, the edible flesh is pulled off from the core….. this flesh, after cooking, resembles seaweed in color, and the flavor and texture are like young spinach stems or asparagus…. samphire is very often used as a suitably maritime accompaniment to fish or seafood….. eating this coastal treat raw with a little fresh squeezed lemon juice is allowing one to truly experience this salt loving plant at its finest… In addition to salicornia europaea, the seeds of salicornia bigelovii yield a highly edible oil…. salicornia bigelovii's edibility is compromised somewhat because it contains saponins, which are toxic under certain conditions…. this is where years of foraging come into play- one should know the true identity of a foraged wild edible before consumption…. a friend told me before I went live with this post that her haida and tlingit indian friends in alaska called sea baeans ‘…greens…’ and that they make a salad with mayo, crispy bacon bits, green onion, hard boiled eggs and sea beans- something that resembles egg salad to us white bread americans in the lower 48… These same native people sometimes put tiny local salad shrimp in the salad as we do in our kitchen on occasion…… yum