Sea beans, beach asparagus, samphire, salicornia, glasswort, pickleweed and many more; the names for this family of juicy salty crunchy vegetables is one of the wild world’s tastiest treats. In Anchorage, they’re generally called sea beans, but are stuck in my mind as samphire, what they were called when we first started gathering them. Is the sea bean name a modern invention?
Pickled samphire is a treat, even for people like me who are picklephobic (speaking of pickles, why do restaurants persist in putting pickle chips on sandwich plates? Pickles just aren’t nice neighbors. They spit up juices and make bread soggy. There oughta be a law).
Samphire grows at or near the sea and in marshes. It’s salty, crunchy, and all-around delicious. In Limnos, the Greek island where we occasionally live, there are big swaths of easy to harvest samphire. We’re not so blessed in Anchorage; samphire grows in Southeast Alaska, but not further north. (There are rumors of samphire in Anchorage. I’ll believe it when I see it, and hope someone can confirm or deny.)
Luckily, for Anchorage samphire devotees, Paul Benson of Capriccio Specialties regularly brings it to his stall at The Center Market from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm every Wednesday. I stopped by yesterday and bought a big bag to delicious effect. I also bought some shiitake to pair with samphire. There’s still a bagful in the refrigerator so I have the luxury of experimenting.
Today I pan-fried fresh halibut and paired it with a mixture of sea beans, barely cooked asparagus, pan-fried saffron potatoes, and good garlicky aioli. The dish was colorful and every bite made our taste buds sit up and take notice. This recipe definitely goes into the rotation.
I’m quite interested in hearing back from my readers about this interesting vegetable. Please comment or drop me a line: Have you ever eaten samphire? If so, where? Any sightings near Anchorage or other parts of Alaska?