Juicy Salty Crunchy: Samphire, A Delicious Wild Edible

Fresh-Sea-Beans / Samphire

Fresh-Sea-Beans / Samphire

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?

Pan-Fried Halibut with Sea Beans, Asparagus, and Saffron Potatoes

Pan-Fried Halibut with Sea Beans, Asparagus, and Saffron Potatoes

 

 

 

Be sure to check out the recipes mentioned in this post:

 

5 Responses to Juicy Salty Crunchy: Samphire, A Delicious Wild Edible

  1. I am quite sure that Joan and I tried samphire at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. It tasted of the salty sea.

  2. This looks great! I have never had it. I love that you blog about wild edibles, I have learned a lot from you!

    -Anna

    • Laurie Constantino says:

      Thanks Anna! I’m honored. Truly. I’ve learned pretty much all I know from other women and am happy to pass it on.

  3. Rose Harrell says:

    I have a friend that lives in Naukati Bay, Alaska and she calls it Asparagus Grass or Beach Grass. She cans it. I am interested in knowing what the actual plant looks like. I live in Oregon on the beach and we have a lot of Horsetail Grass that grows wild and is edible (per internet research). It is jointed like asparagus and bamboo and is great for strengthening nails and hair growth. Is this perhaps the same plant?

  4. Mary T thompson says:

    In Sitka, we call samphire “beach asparagus”. It seems best as part of another dish such as a stir fry or perhaps a variation on kim chi. It does not freeze well, even vacuum packed. Canning it ruins the crunchy texture, which is one of the main reasons to consume this wild edible. One year I harvested more than I could use, so dehydrated a bunch then ground it in the food processor to make a type of salt. That worked great but seemed like somewhat a waste of this beautiful green.
    Here’s one recipe I have prepared consistently with beach asparagus. The source is from a web site, “Tongass Clearinghouse” (no longer on the web) and is credited to Tom Pope, F/V Annie B, taken from the Port Alexander Cookbook.
    The recipe title was “Kashi Salad” but I changed the title in my notes because I always expected “beach asparagus” to be front and center in the title. I also added the oil and vinegar to the ingredients in the original recipe because I found the original to be too dry.

    Kashi (bulgur) Salad

    2 c kashi
    4 c water
    1 tsp salt
    1 quart beach asparagus, blanched
    1 c celery, chopped fine
    1/3 c onion chopped fine (I prefer green onions)
    1 can ripe olives, chopped (or small can of sliced olives)
    1 can garbanzo beans
    2 to 3 T mayonnaise
    2 T olive oil
    1 T vinegar
    1 T toasted sesame oil, or to taste
    1 T soy sauce, or to taste
    1/2 t mongolian fire oil, or to taste (I never have this on hand so use siracha)
    Cook kashi with water and salt, let cool.
    Mix together the rest of the ingredients with the cooked kashi. Let sit for a few hours for flavors to meld before serving.

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