Mmmm! Sea beans
Also known as glasswort and pickleweed, sea beans are marsh plants capable of growing up to their necks in saltwater. The plant is native to North America, South Africa, Europe, and India. The species shown here (there are many) is likely Salicornia virginica, sometimes known as dwarf glasswort. But what do you do with it?
Though many of its usages are industrial (the English have long made soda ash out of it), sea beans can be eaten. Just steam the hell out of them (don’t add salt; they’re already salty enough), and then, after cooling, peel the flesh off them stems. There is a small inedible core in the plant.
They also make a nice garnish or bed for seafood of any sort. Become familiar with it, and you can gather your own along the seaside. The price seems prohibitive, but a little goes a long way; the plant is relatively light, like mushrooms. The color is really Christmassy, too.
Manhattan Fruit Exchange
Ninth Avenue and 15th Street
A quarter pound will be plenty.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 19, 2011