Sea beans are halophytes, meaning they only grow in salty environments. They are found growing upright in dense clusters along coastal waters and even inland along the banks of salt marshes. Sea Beans are succulents with thin, round and fleshy, multi-segmented stems that can reach up to 30 centimeters tall. The bright green Sea Beans have 2 to 6-centimeter-long, horn-like branches growing opposite of each other up the stems. Along the small branches lie tiny, scale-like leaves that look like small shields. Sea Beans will slowly turn red as the weather turns cooler, the color change occurring once the stems become woody and overly salty. The preferred portions of the plant are the tender, green tops and branches, as the lower portions can get tough. Sea Beans are crisp and crunchy with an intensely salty flavor, which can be muted with cooking.
Sea Beans are perhaps more commonly known by their botanical name: Salicornia. Though the succulent is also known as Sea Asparagus, Pickleweed, Marsh Samphire, Glasswort or Saltwort depending on where in the world you are. Salicornia means ?salt horn? a reference to both the shape and taste of the sea vegetable. Sea Beans are commonly found along the coast, growing wild in the salty soil and even inland growing in the muddy banks of salt flats and marshes. Sea Beans have found a place on restaurant dishes in coastal cities thanks in part to an increase in popularity of foraged items and farmer?s markets. They are often used as a substitute for green beans or wax beans. The term ?Sea Bean? is believed to be the result of a marketing campaign for some lesser-known, but nutritious sea vegetable.
Sea Beans are best when either served raw or lightly blanched. Sea Beans can be added raw to green salads or pasta salads. Sea Beans will intensify the aroma and taste of seafood. Add Sea Beans to stir-frys or lightly saut? with garlic and lemon for a simple side dish. Substitute Sea Beans for green or yellow wax beans ? just be mindful of their already salty flavor. Lightly blanched Sea Beans are pickled to preserve and enhance the lightly salty flavor. The briny pickled flavor of Sea Beans pairs well with fish and crab, or smoked salmon lox. Pair pickled Sea Beans with sharp cheeses and cured meats, ham or salami. The pickled sea vegetable can be used like a cornichon or gherkin on crudit? platters. Keep Sea Beans refrigerated for up to two weeks. Blanched Sea Beans can be frozen and kept for up to a month.