We all know what asparagus is, but what about sea asparagus?
This is a tender, crispy vegetable cultivated in salt water. The crunchy green has a burst of saltiness and can be eaten raw or lightly cooked; either way, it’s delicious, especially when paired with fish and seafood.
Sea asparagus is also known as pickleweed, glasswort, sea been, sea pickle and marsh samphire. In France it’s referred to as pous pied. This sea vegetable is grown on Oahu’s North Shore by Marine Agrifuture utilizing saltwater ponds and Kahuku’s ideal weather for cultivation. Launched in 2006, sea asparagus has become a prized item on many a restaurant menu in Hawaii.
Another plus to sea asparagus is its healthful properties: The veggie is packed with chemicals that protect the liver, heart and cellular DNA. It is rich in vitamins A, C, B-2 and B-15. It is reported that sea asparagus can aid in weight loss, boost energy, enhance the immune system and destroy some types of tumor cells.
Find sea asparagus at farmers markets and supermarkets. Enjoy them raw — their crispness and saltiness can be as addictive as a potato chip. Toss them into a salad for crunch and seaweedlike flavor. Saute them briefly in butter and olive oil; no need to add salt!
Hawaii food writer Joan Namkoong offers a weekly tidbit on fresh seasonal products, many of them locally grown. Look for "Fresh Tips" every Wednesday in the Star-Advertiser.