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Salicornia: What You Need to Know About This Tasty Sea Bean

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Salicornia: What You Need to Know About This Tasty Sea Bean

Some call it asparagus of the sea while others refer to it as sea bean or samphire. The truth is salicornia goes by many names but this sea vegetable can be cooked just like any other - boiled, steamed, sautéed with garlic and olive oil, or even as a filling for seafood thanks to its natural salty flavor.

Salicornia: A Little Background

How can I recognize salicornia? It's easy! The nickname ''asparagus of the sea'' gives you a hint as to what it looks like. Salicornia is a succulent that grows in small bushes by the sea or marshes. Its bright green branches look like a minituare version of asparagus. They are crunchy, salty and delicious.

Salicornia's health benefits are very varied: the sea vegetable is rich in minerals and is loaded with vitamins  A, B1, B15, C, and D. It is a plant known to strengthen the immune system, very popular among sailors who carried it with them to fight diseases during long voyages. Salicornia is also renowned for its diuretic qualities and for its purifying effects.

Recipes with Salicornia

Salicornia's fleshy stems are bitter yet savory. Just the thing to accompany seafood dishes, fish and soups. In general, the sea asparagus excels in fresh summer recipes, raw in salads, steamed or lightly pan-fried, as a light side dish to meat dishes. 

Lovers of salicornia should think about preserving the vegetable in vinegar or oil to ensure a steady supply year round. Pickled salicornia is a great accompaniment to a charcuterie plate, cheeses and sausages.

It is even a great match for eggs, egg-based pastas and even risotto. Just take a cue from acclaimed French chef Inaki Aizpitarte who developed a creamy green risotto flavored with salicornia.

You can find the recipe here.

Raw salicornia is a great way to enrich sandwiches or canapés so it's definitely worth a try.

The golden rule when cooking salicornia? Don't use an abundant amount of salt or you'll risk your dish being too salty. Taste as you go. 

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