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.
Labels: sea beans