When exploring beaches on the West Coast, we often see sea asparagus growing near the high tide line. This little green plant, also known as salicornia, sea beans, or samphire, is a form of succulent, which grows in salt marshes and on beaches. We have always heard that you can eat it , but we have never tested that theory.
This afternoon, we were exploring the beach near our anchorage in Pearse Islands, in the Cormorant Channel Marine Park – a group of islands about 2km north of Telegraph Cove, BC. We came across a good size crop of sea asparagus and decided that today would be a great time to try it out! After a quick search for recipes online (just to get a feel for how much we’d need), we filled up our now-empty lunch box with little green spears, and took it back to the boat.
Eaten raw, sea asparagus is very salty and has a crunch like a really skinny green bean (ie: more pod than actual bean). You therefore need to remove some of that salt when you cook it – we planned to mix this into pasta, so we soaked the sea asparagus in fresh water for an hour or so before cooking. We then boiled up some spaghetti, added frozen peas for a few minutes, and then tossed in the strained sea asparagus right at the end. Drain, add pesto and parmesan cheese, and voila, a super basic evening meal!
The sea asparagus brought a lovely crisp texture to the dish, with just enough salt to provide flavour, but not be overwhelming. Overall though, I think it might have been a little overpowered by the pesto. Next time I think we will try making our own pasta sauce with just lemon, butter, and garlic, or simply serving it on it’s own as a side dish for fish or other seafood. I think that’s a great idea – we just need to time it for a day when we aren’t down to pantry staples as dinner choices!