Disclaimer

When it comes to foraging, PLEASE do your homework by consulting experts and guidebooks to make sure you really know what you're picking. There are some resources listed on the right. I'm a hobbyist who is sharing her experiments. I think foraging is amazingly entertaining, and fun, and awesome, but I never pick/eat something I'm not sure of. It's difficult to resist picking something you're almost sure of, but you have to do it. Resist. Take pictures. Pick a sample. Go home and study up. And then if you're sure, go back and harvest. Here are some ethical foraging guidelines.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mushroom Season - Late Post

The below post was one I wrote before I headed out of town for the last month and a half. We're now actually at the very very tail-end of mushroom season, but as I'm using this blog as a resource for future years, I figured I'd go ahead and post it.


We're in the thick of mushroom season up here in Southeast Alaska, and hopefully it'll be staying with us for a while. I've been lax in posting and will continue to be lax for a little while longer yet as I'm about to head out of town for a month. But before that, I've got a couple of posts up my sleeve.

What I Pick

As a newer mushroom hunter, I do what a lot of us less-experienced folk do, I stick to non-gilled mushrooms that are easy to identify. Obviously, before you pick/eat something, make sure you're sure, but these are local mushrooms that once you figure them out, are very easy to be sure of.

Undersides (L to R)  - Golden Chantrelle, Hedgehog, Winter Chantrelle

Topsides (L to R) - Golden Chantrelle, Hedgehog, Winter Chantrelle

Hedgehogs

My favorite, with a good meaty texture and a slightly nutty flavor. I find it difficult to do anything other than just saute them up and eat them.

The underside of one of the larger hedgehogs I've found.
The topside looks to me exactly like a perfectly toasted marshmallow, same texture, same color. They're usually a bit lumpy on top, but unmistakable when flipped over as the underside is covered in tiny little spikes (just like a hedgehog). While there are a few other mushrooms that have a spiny underside (referred to as toothed mushrooms), they're all edible (all though from what I understand, Hawkwings aren't that tasty unless you cook them for at least 20 minutes), and there are no real poisonous imposters. I find it's best to carefully cut the stalk of the mushroom and brush off any loose pine needles or dirt on the topsides, the underside of the mushroom will be remarkable free of brush when you pick it, but any bits and pieces of dirt that you put in the bag will be attracted to those little spines like velcro. Easiest to keep them clean from the start because it's not that easy to clean them out once they are in.


Golden Chantrelles 

Dorikily thrilled to find many of our common mushrooms for sale at a local Paris farmers market. The orange ones in the back are golden chantrelles.
A big favorite in this area, and these are the goodies that you'll find in the supermarket sometimes. They have a lovely apricot color, and it's no joke that they have a slight apricot flavor as well. Like hedgehogs, they've got a fairly meaty texture. Google cream of chantrelle soups and you'll find some beauties.

I had big plans for Chantrelles this year, but now that I'm going to be missing the season, those experiments will have to wait until next year.


Winter Chantrelles

A mostly overlooked mushroom, maybe because they grow EVERYWHERE.

Cleaning the inside of a winter chantrelle.
They're small, but plentiful, and very quickly you can pick a bunch. These mushrooms have hollow stems, topped in a fluted cap. A perfect vessel for spruce needles. When I clean these I go ahead and split them down the center and brush out the central funnel. You would not believe how many spruce needles I clean out of these babies.


General Cooking

The classic way to cook up mushrooms, especially if you're picking them in a rainforest, is to do a dry saute (meaning you toss your mushrooms in a pan without any oil), shake them around until they give off a bunch of water, continue to saute until they reabsorb the water. Then I add whatever else I want to for flavor, usually just a bit of butter, salt, and pepper.

With a decent haul of hedgehogs, a few golden chantrelles and a few winter chantrelles, we put together a DELICIOUS mushroom pizza with caramelized onions.

Best pizza ever?

Helps to have an expert pizza tosser.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Put a Fish in It - Blueberry Pickled Salmon

As I mentioned in a previous post, reading through Plants That We Eat has been an interesting way to play with ideas for experiments. One short paragraph got me scheming. It included the sentence "Any meat or fat that is stored in blueberries will become pickled, developing a unique color and flavor within a few days to a week." You can read the whole section word for word in this post on a website called Edible East Bay - they failed to credit Anore Jones or Plants That We Eat, but it is literally exact copy.

I am still a little wary of going too far afield in experiments with foods that are jarred. I've read too many warnings about botulism. And since I have no real ability to test pH, I figured I would just go ahead and modify a standard pickled salmon recipe and go from there. Part of the impetus for this was that I don't really have a drying set-up for fish, and I figured the partial curing at the start of the process would help the salmon hold together for the pickling.

After reading several recipes, I decided to adapt the method and recipe provided by a woman by the name of Sandra Firestack who appears to be based out of Juneau.


Blueberry Pickled Salmon

The color is more beautiful in person, with a deep purple outlining the red sockeye.
1 & 1/2 lb sockeye salmon fillet - skin on
salt
brown sugar
1 & 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp pickling spice
1 yellow onion

Rinse and pat dry salmon fillet. Place in rimmed container and cover fillet with salt ensuring all exposed meat is covered. Liberally sprinkle brown sugar over the top of the salt covering the fillet. Place in fridge and let sit for 24 hours. Rinse fillet off, skin, and slice into 1 inch by 2 inch pieces. You should be able to see the way that the salt has begun curing the salmon in the way that the color of the meat has changed. Fill a bowl with very cold water, place fish in the water, let sit for half an hour, change the water, and let sit for another half hour - total of 1 hour soak.

You can see the way that the pieces have been mostly cured through.
Lay out saran wrap, cover with a layer of paper towels. Once salmon has soaked, pull out the pieces and place them so that what used to be the skin-side is down.  This was a totally ingenious tip provided by Sandra!

Cutting block, saran wrap, paper towel, drying salmon.
Let the pieces air dry for an hour. While they're drying, heat up your vinegar, blueberries, sugar, and pickling spices. Mash the blueberries and stir till the pickling solution is thoroughly mixed. Let cool on the stove. Once fairly cool, place the whole pot in a bowl of ice water and stir until the mixture is 100% cooled.

Pickling solution having an ice-water bath.
Now every recipe I could find specified that the pickling solution must be cold. This is not a canned pickle, there is no hot-water bath, and as such, there is no shelf-life. This is essentially a refrigerator pickle and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. But I still sterilized my jars and rings and warmed my lids so that the lid seal would be nice and gooey for when I tightened it all down. However I made sure the jars were nice and cool before packing.

I packed the jars with slices of yellow onion and layers of salmon. Halfway through I half filled the jars with pickling liquid so that I could make sure some of the actual blueberries (and not just their juice) would be distributed throughout the jar, then I filled them up, tightened down the lid and stuck em in the fridge. I started with the jars upside down (as suggested by many recipes), but sort of flipped them back and forth throughout the week. Not sure if this was helpful or just silly.

The top picture is us tasting the pickled salmon after a week of pickling. I imagine that the longer the pickle sits, the more the blueberry will penetrate the flesh.

But even now, this was REALLY good. Tart, a pickle tang, a little sweet, yummy salmon-y, with the texture of lox, and very pretty. I went with sockeye since that's what I had handy, but I also think sockeye is the right choice for this. As the second oiliest salmon, it can keep a good salmon flavor against other strong flavors, and honestly, I just couldn't bring myself to experiment with king. But I actually think the king might've been a little too salmon-y for this.

We had this on crackers with a sharp cheddar as well as plain, but I think this would be absolutely divine with goat cheese and crackers or with straight-up cream cheese.

This recipe made two perfect pint jars and I have to say, with blueberries still going strong here in Juneau, I think I'm probably going to make another batch.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

True Blue Blueberries - Chutney & Pancakes!

We're smack in the middle of a GREAT blueberry year here in Juneau. The low sea-level berries are huge and ready and with a little more sun we'll have lower alpine berries to pick next.  I went out twice this week, but definitely had the most fun, and the biggest adventure with my mom and faithful Nelly.


Blueberry picking was something we did a lot when I was a kid in Ketchikan. My mom, my brother, and our good friends Laurie, Ahna, and Kaelin Gillet would all pack into Laurie's station wagon and drive out the road, each of us with our little berry buckets - yogurt containers with strings tied around our necks. It was a LONG drive, 30 unbearable minutes for us southeast Alaskan kids, and on the way Laurie told us a never-ending story about a good witch named Blueberry and her sidekick Marshmellow. In general, I was a terrible berry picker. Which means that before this year, it's probably been more than a decade since I went out to pick berries.  Apparently it's much more successful when you don't eat every berry you pick.

Nelly being very very patient.
For my part, I feel that wild blueberries are just as good frozen as they are fresh, except maybe when it comes to blueberry pancakes.  But when you're cooking with them, and even for pancakes, I think frozen berries are great. So I froze pretty much everything I picked.

I know I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but I'm going to go ahead and explain how to process berries anyways.

To start off, as soon as I get home I dump all my berries in a big bowl, fill it until they're covered with water and then liberally shake salt into the water. I'll let them sit for a little bit while I put away whatever else I brought home and then pull out the trash can and go through the berries for leaves and twigs and things, regularly stirring the berries. It doesn't take very long for the little wormies to decide they're not into the salt-bath and make their way out of your berries. Just pick em out! Easy peasy! I'll usually go through the berries once, stir them around, let them sit another hour and come back for a second round of worm picking.

Panicked worms falling for the salt-water trick.
Once the berries are picked through, rinse a couple of times in clean water, and then lay them out on a cookie sheet for freezing.  If you want to you can go through the trouble of rolling them around on a papertowel to dry them off, but that's too much of a pain in the butt for me.


Pop them in the freezer.  Once they're frozen, scrape them off into a zip-lock bag, suck the air out, and voila!

Now I'm not much of a baker or a sweets person, but there are two things that are great standard uses for blueberries that I wholeheartedly believe in. Both of these have a thousand variations online and can be made with whatever you have at hand. The recipes I've written out here just happen to be how I made them recently.


Blueberry Chutney

Blueberry chutney - a perfect topping for fresh sockeye.
4 small cloves shallot - sliced
1 clove garlic - diced
1 tbsp sherry to deglaze
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup blueberries
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp thyme
1 tbsp sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Heat up a high heat oil or butter and saute shallots until clear and just begining to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sautee for another minute. Add sherry to deglaze the bottom of the pan, stir around, and then add the remaining ingredients. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

This is a strong variation and a little will take you a long way. Whatever you don't use, reserve aside in the fridge for future deployment.


Blueberry & Banana Pancakes


3/4 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg
1 tbsp sugar
1 banana - finely diced
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup blueberries
cinnamon

Whisk together yogurt, milk, egg, sugar, and banana until frothy. Add in flour, baking powder, soda and mix until smooth. Add in blueberries and just mix (unless you want blue pancakes, then feel free to crush the berries a bit). Add in cinnamon to desired cinnamon-ness.

Heat 1 tbsp of butter in a pan, swish around to cover the full pan, pour remaining butter into the batter and whisk. 

The trick to a perfectly cooked pancake (as taught to me by my confirmation teacher at our Lutheran church's annual pancake feed) is when you're cooking the first side, watch for bubble holes in the center of the pancake, once those start to stay and the edges of the pancake look firm, flip. For the second side, watch for steady steam.

A few ripe Nagoonberries (I threw them in the chutney).
I've got sort of a strange blueberry experiment in the works which should hopefully be ready in about five days (before blueberry season is over).

There are so many other berries that are ready, or almost ready right now! I spotted crowberries, cloudberries, and nagoonberries that are ready, and patches of cloudberries, nagoonberries, watermelon berries, huckleberries, and thimbleberries that haven't quite gotten there. If you want an excuse to get out in the woods, take your pick!

Also IT'S FINALLY MUSHROOM SEASON.

So much is going off right now that I'm starting to feel a little overwhelmed. Not to mention our band, the North Country Cajun Club, is playing at both the Alaskan this Friday and at the Haines State Fair next weekend.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Beach Greens & Lovage - Kimchi & Kimchi Soup

I had a couple of experiments that took some time, which meant by the time I was ready to try again, we were past that time of year. As this blog is a resource for myself as well, I figured I'd go ahead and type up these notes even though we're past time for beach greens and lovage.

On the recommendation of a friend I got ahold of Plants we Eat, a book that was produced by NANA Corp.  It's focused on more northern areas of Alaska, but there are still many of these plants here in Southeast Alaska. Not only does this book have information about traditionally collected plants, it also has information on traditional methods of preservation.


I also stumbled onto the Alaska Native Health Trust Consortium (ANTHC) YouTube video series called Store Out Your Backdoor which features chefs and cooks traveling around the state learning from elders and elders-in-training about traditional foods collection and preparation. I've really loved this video series, you get to explore communities around the state, look at foods that are sometimes found here in Southeast, learn about traditional food preparation methods, and learn about new food preparation ideas with foraged goods.


These resources, in addition to my plant books, got me excited to try some plants that I've never tried anywhere else and never had anyone show me.


Beach Greens 

Big patches of beach greens.
These greens can be found on practically every beach around Juneau.  A beautiful green mounding plant with leaves that have a thickness that almost make them seem like a succulent. When you're picking the early plant (early May) you can pick the full sprout, but as I learned from the ANTHC videos, later in the summer you just want to pick the tops of the plants. I stuck with picking the top three inches.

I had beach greens at the Rookery, lightly sauteed with oil and cranberries, as I mentioned in a past post. They're nice fresh mixed in with greens as well. However, in The Plants We Eat Jones mentions that beach greens are commonly fermented in large barrels. Fermented? Sounded to me like I should give kimchi a go!


Lovage

Dig into the center of larger lovage plants and pick the hidden tender young shoots.
Another spring/early summer green that I explored was Lovage (as mentioned in the ANTHC video above). When picked young the leaves were fairly tender, however once the plant grows larger, as in the picture in this post, you need to pull the large plant apart and pick the newly grown sprouts in the center of the plant.

Lovage has a very strong taste, along the lines of an herb. Lovage is related to cilantro and has a cilantro/celery taste. I wouldn't eat it alone, but as an herb to mix in with salads or to use as seasoning, it's very nice.


Beach Green Kimchi 


This was a 100% bonafide experiment. And it actually turned out pretty good! I'm writing out the recipe as I made it, but I would definitely reduce the amount of pepper I used because this kimchi came out SPICY. In The Plants We Eat Jones mentioned that beach greens can take longer to ferment than other greens. With this in mind, I decided to be patient.  It took several weeks for this kimchi to ferment properly. Another thing that Jones mentioned was that beach greens need a shot of heat before they're put up for fermenting. I did not do that and I think next year I'll try that to see if it speeds up the fermenting.  I also think I'll probably also add in raw oysters next time.

The kimchi recipe I used was loosely based on Hank Shaw's Green Onion Kimchi recipe.  After watching some kimchi videos and reading a couple of other recipes I went ahead and winged it.

1 & 1/2 pounds beach greens
1/2 cup rough chopped lovage
1 cup of salt
1 cup water
2 tbsp rice flour
1/2 cup fish sauce
1 bunch green onions (rinsed and diced)
1/4 cup cayenne (I didn't have Korean chile powder)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame seeds
3 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced ginger

Rinse beach greens and lovage well. Lay a layer of greens in a large mixing bowl, shake a liberal amount of salt over the greens, lay another layer, cover again with salt, continue until all greens and salt is used up. Press down greens and fill bowl with water until just barely covered. Let greens sit in the salt water for 2 hours, until you start to see the beach greens' leaves darken.

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and whisk in rice flour. Turn off heat and keep stirring until the flour is totally incorporated. Let cool. Then mix in the rest of the ingredients.

Once greens have soaked properly, drain and give a quick rinse. Press out any excess water.

Thoroughly mix the paste and the greens together and pack into a big jar, big enough to hold the kimchi as well as a ziplock back full of water. The ziplock with the water works as weight to push down the kimchi and keep the greens in their juice.

Leave at room temperature to ferment. After a few days you'll see bubbles inside the jar. Let the kimchi ferment for a week and then start tasting to check fermentation level/taste, once it reaches the point you like, transfer to a jar with a lid and refrigerate. Once you start checking the fermentation, regularly poke around the edges of the kimchi jar to release the bubbles and gasses. I just used a chop stick.


A quart of beach greens kimchi.
Now this kimchi was very very spicy. A little too spicy for my tender tongue. However, I knew from the beginning that one of the things I was going to use this kimchi for kimchi soup.


Beach Green Kimchi Soup

Kimchi soup topped with an egg yolk!

After reading loads and loads of recipes, this is what I came up with. Even using very very spicy kimchi, this turned into a delicious soup, right at the edge of my spice zone. Definitely a great way to use kimchi experiments, even if they turn out a little too spicy.

1/2 onion - diced
1/4 lb mushrooms - sliced
1 zucchini - 1/2 in cubes
1 cup kimchi - rough chopped
1/4 cup kimchi juice
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
5 green onions - cut into 1 inch angled pieces - save some aside for garnish
1 tsp soy sauce
1 pinch sugar
1 package silken tofu - 1/2 cubes
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
egg yolks - for each bowl
rice - made on the side

Sautee onion until clear, about 5 min. Throw in mushrooms and sautee until brown, about another 5 minutes. Add in zucchini and cook until slightly browned, a couple more minutes. Add in kimchi and heat until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add kimchi liquid (pulled off the top of your kimchi jar), chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add in green onions, soy sauce, sugar, and tofu and simmer for another 30 minutes. Remove from heat, add in sesame oil and any additional seasoning (salt, pepper) that you want.

Serve Soup over rice and top with an egg yolk.

Warming, spicy, with a nice depth of flavor.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Best Pickle - Beach Asparagus

I know that's a big claim, but seriously, one of the many many names for beach asparagus is pickleweed (aka samphire, sea beans, sea asparagus, salicornia, glasswort, etc).

Previously I posted about collecting this goodie and a few ways to use this delicious green fresh, but really, just about my favorite thing in the world is pickled beach asparagus.

We tried three methods, one of which is the classic method provided by Mr. Sergei and Ms. April (our beach asparagus gurus), and two that are total experiments.  For all three methods I used the same pickling solution, the variation was in the goodies that we added to the jars.


Before you begin your pickling, be sure to really give your beach asparagus a good wash.  I soaked mine for a while in the fridge and then lifted it out of the water. Lifting out the beach asparagus is handy since it means that you don't disturb all the sediment that has settled in the bottom of the bowl (like you would if you just poured it out into a colander).

I thought I was being a bit fussy with cleaning, but here you can see how dirty it was.

The dirty soaking water.
As you would any time you're canning in a water bath, make sure you've got all your items lined up and ready to go, jars & rings sanitized, lids soaking, all your tools and all your goodies lined out.

Half of the pickling station.
When you're filling your jars, be sure to really pack down the beach asparagus.  When I did this for the first time last year I was very tender with it, but once I poured the pickling solution in and jarred it, I found that I had left LOADS of space in the jar because the hot process shrinks the beach asparagus a bit.  Get the most out of yours and really press it down.  It helped to go back and repeatedly press more in.


Pickling Solution

6 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar or honey

Results in 7 pint jars worth of pickling solution (for jars stuffed full of beach asparagus).  Bring to brisk simmer, pour over each jar to within 1 inch of top.  Process for 10 minutes.

Now this is essentially a sweet pickling solution, but I decided to go ahead and use it for all three kinds of pickles - both for ease of process and because I knew it wood taste good no matter what.


The Classic (& April's Special Sauce)

Add to each jar:
1 slice onion
1 slice lemon
1/4 tsp pickling spice

Good with everything, but especially great paired with:

April's Special Sauce

1/4 cup mayo or veganaise
2 garlic cloves - minced
1-2 whole canned marinated artichoke hearts - finely chopped
pinch crushed red pepper (optional)


The Spicy

Add to each jar:
1 & 1/2 Serrano pepper - chopped into rounds - seeds in
3 cloves garlic - thinly sliced into rounds
1 pinch red chili flakes
1 pinch black pepper corns

Good and spicy on it's own, nicely spicy when paired with an aged cheddar.


The Asian

Add to each jar:
2 clove garlic - whole but bruised
3 one-inch-long pieces of ginger - peeled
1 two-inch-long piece of lemongrass - peeled and bruised
1 pinch chilli flakes
1 pinch whole mustard

The ginger comes through with a nice snap, if you're not a ginger nut, would still be good with half the amount of ginger. Nice paired with pear or an apple along the lines of a fuji or a pink lady.


All told we came out with 14 pint jars of pickled beach asparagus and we're seriously considering doing another full batch so that we'll have plenty to get us through the winter. That is how good this stuff is. We're feeling the need for 20+ pints of it in our pantry.

I'm also considering some additional experiments since we're still in season. In my last post I mentioned the Turkish process for cooking a more mature plant, but I also just found this post by Hank Shaw regarding dried beach asparagus which he learned about in Kake, Alaska.

Pickled Sea Beans - Recipes, Pairings, & Tips on Punk Domestics

Monday, July 7, 2014

Head to Tail Salmon Stock

Hooooo doggy! Knowing that this has been a banging year for king salmon (the troll king opener has one of the largest targets in years) we went out with my dad for his maiden voyage in his new skiff. Using a tip from a king-slaying friend we lucked out and got this fat 25 lb gorgeous fish! Whenever we luck into beautiful fresh fish we always try to make sure we used absolutely every bit of the fish we can.

Andrew, the new boat, and one big fish!
Now there are loads and loads of recipes and advice for cooking and processing salmon out here on the internets, but I just wanted to put up a quick note about using the whole fish.

A beautiful full side fillet with beer for size comparison!
The only two general things I'll add to the conversation are the two things my dad told me that surprised me and seem helpful:

  1. Kings have the hardest mouth of all salmon, so when you hook one, you really need to keep good tension on the line to set the hook.
  2. When filleting a big fish you want to use a big sturdy knife, along the lines of a chef's knife, when you're filleting out the full side fillet.  When you go back in to clean up all the little bits of meat to save for fish cakes that's when you want to use a classic fillet knife.
Don't forget to save aside those yummy yummy belly fins! Dad let us keep both and we grilled those up for an extra special treat that first night of fresh salmon. If you're not in on the belly fins, you're missing out. Oiliest part of the fish. My first job was working for Taku Smokeries when I was 14 and you can bet your bottom dollar I took home every bag of smoked belly fins I could get my little paws on.

Belly fins + Oil + Salt + Pepper + Grill = Delicious!
After feasting ourselves on fresh king for 4 days in a row we went ahead and packaged everything to freeze.



Normally my dad keeps the carcass and freezes it to use it later for his crab and shrimp pots, but I really really wanted to make fish stock, so he kindly let me keep it. Since it was such a nice big fish, I went ahead and just used the one carcass for a fish stock that my friend Jordan loves and sent directions for.

Jordan's Fish Stock



1 onion - halved
3 carrots - peeled and broken in half
3 celery sticks
handful black peppercorns
few springs of parsley
2-3 bay leaves
1 good sized salmon carcass or 2 smaller carcasses (everything except gills and belly guts)

Put all your ingredients in a nice big stock pot and cover with water.  Put the lid on, as soon as you bring it to a boil immediately bring back down to a simmer.  Let it simmer for several hours, but watch to make sure that's it doesn't come back up to a boil.

At first the stock will look milky, but after a while it'll clear up. The trick to a nice clear stock is to make sure that you're not stirring it too much. Jordan suggested giving the fish a poke every once in a while to make sure it's not sticking to the pot, but other than that, just leave it alone.

I simmered mine for three hours and then poured it through a fine colander. I'll be jarring tonight although Jordan freezes hers.

The stock comes out clear with that beautiful gold shimmery look that homemade stock always seems to have.  Really really looking forward to using it for chowder and bouillabaisse.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Beach Asparagus By Any Other Name - 2 Quick Recipes

Building up to mushroom season (I seriously am just ITCHING to get my fingers on some fungus) has been interesting. Time filled with mostly foraging experiments. Lot's of unknowns with a few items that turned out great (looking at you devil's club). But one goodie that I've been anticipating with almost as much excitement as mushrooms is what is locally known as beach asparagus.

Actually, I've never heard of, nor seen this guy anywhere else. That is, until just a few weeks ago in Hawaii when we were surprised to not only see beach asparagus mixed in with yummy poke, but also to see it sold as a "cultivated" green under the name sea asparagus.

In preparation for picking I did some googling and discovered that not only is beach asparagus a favorite of mine, it's favorite of a LOT of people the world over.  And it's goes by loads of other names, most recently it has been re-branded as sea beans and seen a fair amount of popularity under that name. Looks like in Britain it's called samphire, in Turkey it's called deniz börülcesi, and in the US it also goes by salicornia, glasswort, and pickleweed.

PICKLEweed. Why? Because this stuff is so dang delicious to pickle. Which is the main way that I've had beach asparagus and you better believe that next up you'll be seeing a pickle post. (Update: HERE IT IS!)

But before that I wanted to write a little bit about picking and other ways to use beach asparagus.


Beach Asparagus

Around here beach asparagus grows in low mats along the shore, almost like thick stubby grass. For picking, the easiest thing to do is toss down a coat, take a seat, and just start mowing away with your scissors. I highly recommend going through every handful for grass and other debris while you're on the beach, otherwise it's kind of a pain to clean at home. Bring a beer and you'll have a grand old time. Beach asparagus grows like a grass in that you don't really need to worry about cutting a large swath, it'll just grow right back.We're pretty early in the season, so at the moment it's small and tender, once the beach asparagus grows a bit larger, I've been instructed to only pick the tops of the plants.

A nice thick patch. Love that green!
However, after watching this video about the Turkish method for cooking beach asparagus, I'm tempted to try the more mature plants as well.

Beach asparagus is delicious eaten straight off the beach. It's delicious tossed in a salad. It's delicious as a pickle. It's delicious as a side dish. If it were possible, I would have beach asparagus in my fridge year round as a staple. It keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. I keep mine in a bowl of water, but I have friends who just keep it in a mesh bag, or other friends who wrap it in a damp paper towel.

What's so great about it? That salty green crunch! With just a hint of sweetness. We've had the bowl of sea asparagus in the fridge since Saturday with the plan to pickle tomorrow and neither Andrew nor I can keep our hands out of the bowl.

I thought I'd share two quick easy ways I've prepared (and loved) beach asparagus this weekend.


Beach Asparagus & Tuna Salad

1 can tuna
1 handful beach asparagus - rinsed and rough chopped (1/2 inch pieces)
1 dill pickle - diced
1 heaping spoonful mayo
1 tsp Dijon mustard
splash of lemon juice
pepper
no salt

Toss all the ingredients together and you're good to go! I am a tuna salad fanatic and this is my standard recipe except I subbed beach asparagus for the celery I usually put in.

Remember, beach asparagus is naturally very salty, so remind yourself not to add any salt.

I like eating this on Akmak crackers instead of bread so you can get maximum tuna salad per bite.


Beach Asparagus with Almonds & Garlic

2 tbsp almonds - toasted & rough chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic - minced
1 big handful beach asparagus - blanched
lemon juice
shaved Parmesan
pepper
no salt
Piled in the center of a 9 inch skillet.
For this I tossed the beach asparagus in a pot of boiling water for barely 30 seconds and then blanched in ice cold water.  Careful not to over-do the blanching process, you absolutely do not want to loose that beautiful crunch!

I toasted the whole almonds in a skillet, and then rough chopped them and set them aside.

Melt the butter, throw in the garlic, cook for about one minute and then throw in the beach asparagus and a dash of lemon juice. Toss for about one more minute. Add the almonds and toss. Remove from heat and add cracked pepper and shaved Parmesan to taste.

This was the perfect side to Andrew's beautifully roasted chicken. This amount was just right for a side for a two person dinner. I'll be doubling this recipe tonight when we have some company over.

Yummy both as an independent side and as a mixed fork-full of chicken, jus, and beach asparagus!

Raw and rinsed beach asparagus would also be great in two of our earliest recipes, the previously mentioned Poke Salad, as well as the Shrimp and Cumber Noodle Salad.


Collection: Easy - a little time consuming
Cleaning: Easy - if done in the field while collecting
Cooking: Easy
Deliciousness: Super yummy - crunchy, crispy, salty, green, with very slight sweetness


Sea Beans, Sea Asparagus - Quick & Easy on Punk Domestics