Sea Asparagus

Salicornia (Sea Asparagus)

A few years ago, while strolling through the local farmer's market, I not noticed a weird looking plant piled up on one of the market stands.
I asked the guy behind the stand: “What is this?” He proceeded to tell me, it is Sea Asparagus and it grows in the local salt marshes.

Sea Asparagus

Sea Asparagus

A few days later, we went to the salt marsh I was familiar with and sure enough, here it grew in wild abundance.
Salicornia, besides sea asparagus, goes by many other names, like samphire, glasswort, pickleweed and more.
It looks unusual in that it appears to be all stems. It grows along sea shores most everywhere in the world, from Mexico to France to South East Asia to both coasts of North America. It has been eaten by people for thousands of years and even Shakespeare talks about it in one of his plays.
This plant, due to the place it grows, has a very high salt content.
Some folks dry it and grind it up to be used as a very healthy salt substitute. This is done commercially in India.
The reason why it is so healthy is, it contains vitamin A, B, B9, B15, C and the minerals calcium, iron, manganese and magnesium plus some valuable phytochemicals.
The best time to pick it is June and July. Later on the plant goes into bloom and becomes woody.
When harvesting it, snip the top half of the plant, making sure to keep it clear of grass and other debris. At home, you wash it and then leach it in cold water for about an hour, to reduce the salt.
You can eat it raw in salads, steamed with some butter, or sautèd. You won't need salt.
It goes very well with sea food or sautèd in butter for one minute and mixed with your pasta or mashed potatoes.
Sea asparagus does not keep too well, even in the fridge. You want to use it fresh within 3 days or else, you can freeze it.
To do that, you boil it for about one minute, quench it in ice water, dry it in a salad spinner to keep it from sticking together, and put it into you freezer, packaged in Ziploc bags.
Sea asparagus is a coming vegetable. It appears more and more in farmer's markets and grocery and fish stores all over the country. So even if you don't live near the ocean, you should be able to find it.
Look for it in your local supermarket and try some. I am sure you will like it and since it is not yet cultivated, it will certainly be organic.