Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sea beans!

One of the most fun things about shopping at WholeFoods is the range of unusual produce. Case in point: sea beans. And after many weeks of passing by, occasionally stopping to fondle them and wonder what-the-, we decided to give 'em a whirl.

Pretty, huh?

Apparently the plant is also known as
samphire or glasswort (also passe-pierre, salicornia, sea asparagus, sea green bean, sea fennel and sea pickle), and was used in the production of glass in 16th-century England.

A taste test revealed that the beans are perfectly named. Imagine fresh raw green beans that have soaked in saltwater but retained their crispness: Sea. Bean. They're more texture than flavor (apart from, um, salt), but quite refreshing.

Their saltiness seems to make them a natural accompaniment to fish and seafood, and the few recipes I managed to track down treat them simply: blanch and serve with butter or lemon or olive oil or parmesan. Apparently, a traditional English method is to pickle them. First I'd heard.

We decided not to cook them, and instead used them to finish a stir-fry of eggplant, zucchini, ginger, lemongrass and shiitake mushrooms over rice noodles, where they added a nice crunchy note.

The Boy also experimented with a vodka-sake martini garnished with a sea-bean sprig, which made an interesting alternative to the usual briny olive.

Would we get sea beans again? Let's ask The Boy.

"Oh yeah," he says, without hesitation. "Definitely. I could just sit in front of the TV and eat a whole bunch of them."

Mind you, he also likes anchovies and capers, so his salt tolerance is way higher than mine.

Oh, way higher--he'll also happily order
Vietnamese lemonade on a hot day.

Waaaaay higher.



Blogger Wandering Chopsticks said...

A long time ago when I was at the beach, I saw someone harvesting bags of these. I asked her what for and she said she ate them. That was long ago and I had no desire to taste them then. I want to now! :)

12:42 AM  

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