Sea beans. What are they? They definitely aren’t beans. Are they even from the sea? They are little green twiggy things that look like a cross between coral and Lilliputian asparagus. They appear every now and then, on the menu of a restaurant—the kind of restaurant that prides itself on local, seasonal ingredients. I enjoy them when they do appear– a bright green, salty, crunchy pile of freshness alongside my entrée.
I scooped up a little bag of them, and as he weighed them I asked the vendor, 1) What the heck are sea beans? and, 2) Do they really come from the sea? He explained that they are a plant that grows wild near the ocean—he picked them amongst the dune grasses on the shore. They are found in the summer, mostly in June and July.
From the internet, I found that sea beans are also known as samphire, glasswort, pickle plant, pousse-pied, and salicornia. These names conjure up visions of a wise woman humming to herself, bent to her task of foraging, stopping every now and then to tuck something into the bag at her waist. She will return later to her kitchen to boil up cauldrons of mysterious remedies—for corns, indigestion, prickly rashes and broken hearts…
Anyhoo…what sea beans most assuredly are is delicious. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, or another coastal area, keep your eyes open at the Farmer’s Market for sea beans these next few weeks.
Sea Bean Preparation:
Rinse the sea beans thoroughly, then steam in a sauté pan with water or stock for about 10 minutes. Allow the liquid to evaporate, then sauté the sea beans in a small amount of olive oil and butter, with minced shallots or a bit of garlic. Season with freshly ground pepper to taste, but they will not need added salt. No, do not top the sea beans with coarse kosher salt just because it looks so pretty (Ahem). Serve alongside meat, fish, or pasta as you would asparagus or green beans.