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.

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.

Salicornia, Beach Asparagus
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
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
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

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