Last week, my cousin and I went to a lovely dinner party hosted by forageSF, a wild foods community in San Francisco. One of the eight courses was a green salad with beets and foraged sea beans. It was the first time I've ever eaten sea beans. They are a delightful addition to my growing list of favorite greens.
I've seen wild sea beans growing along the coast of Northern California, but I never knew they were actually good to eat. Even after they're washed and coated in dressing, they sustain the aroma of the salty ocean — they have a really unique crunch to them, too, almost like they're fried. The flavor? I'd say it's a cross between string beans, asparagus, and potato chips. Delicious!
The official name for sea beans is salicornia (it's the only word I know that rhymes with California!) but they're also known as pickleweed, glasswort, drift seeds, sea asparagus, sea pickles, and marsh samphire.
Sea beans have been around forever, but it's only recently that we've started to see them pop up at farmer's markets and at local grocery stores. There are a lot of fancy ways to prepare sea beans, like this black roasted cod with sea beans and oysters recipe on Epicurious — inspired by the movie Mostly Martha — but I would suggest simply sauteeing or boiling them just to enjoy the full effect of the veggie on its own.
Every installment of Taste Test will explore recipes, the science, and some history behind a specific food item.
Image via Migraine Meals