Sea Beans

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 have never seen them in the grocery store, but last weekend a wicker basket of sea beans was on display at Foraged & Found Edibles at the UW Farmer’s Market, alongside the mushrooms.

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.

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17 thoughts on “Sea Beans

  1. Chay

    So happy to find your blog after 40 minutes of searching for a recipe. Here at the super in Italy these seabeans are marked “algae” and I could not find a photo that matched to check recipes. The lady at the fish counter was like, “just cook ‘em like any vegetable” (in Italian of course). But I didn’t want to risk a disaster because I want to offer them to my boys too.
    Grazie!

    Reply
  2. Tami

    I love these. I first discovered them on the gulf islands many years ago where they were called Sea Asparagus and then years later pickled from Brittany. Then a couple years ago I was on Vancouver Island and came across a spit that was covered from one end to the other with it, like carpet. Amazing! Too bad it was late in the season and they were too tough to eat. Someone was selling these at my market recently and I happily bought them and then forgot about them in the fridge. Bad. Thanks for talking about them though. They really are cool!

    Reply
  3. Kate at Serendipity

    What great photos. We have samphire here in our markets in the summer–we’re not that far from the north sea. I never knew how to cook it, though, and (trust me) it’s not that good raw…

    Thanks for this post. I’ll give it another try the next time I see it!

    Reply
  4. Stella

    Hey Rowdy! Neat post! You know, I think I’ve seen sea beans before. And when I look at your photo, I can almost taste them…nerves are weird.
    Whether I’ve had them or not, they sound great and look incredibly healthful.

    Reply
  5. SMITH BITES

    In all my years of being born/living in the NW, I’ve never, ever had Sea Beans – I’m just shocked at this revelation!! How in the heck does that happen??? I’ll just have to make a visit sometime during the season!

    Reply
    1. The Rowdy Chowgirl Post author

      Wow! This is a distressing circumstance that must be rectified at your earliest opportunity!

      Reply
  6. Rebecca

    We picked some up this weekend at the Ballard Farmers Market. They are good to just snack on fresh also!

    Reply

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