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Seasons: worth its salt

Susan Jung

 

The first time I ate salicorne was several years ago, at DiVino in Central. The vegetable, served as an accompaniment to a meat course, was so delicious it almost surpassed the main dish.

I was told it was samphire, which is just one of the many species of salicornia - a family of edible succulents that thrive in salt marshes and on coastlines. The slender, tender vegetable, which looks like a miniature bright green tree branch, goes by many names, including marsh seaweed, sea bean and sea asparagus. It has a salty flavour because the vegetable absorbs salt from the soil and groundwater.

Salicorne can be eaten raw (in salads) or cooked, and it goes well with seafood as well as lamb and beef. When buying, look for thinner stalks; if they're too thick, the texture can be tough and woody.

For a simple dish, briefly blanch the salicorne in unsalted water, then drain it before sautéeing it with a little olive oil. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the salicorne, then serve.

To pickle the vegetable, rinse the salicorne then pat it dry with paper towels. Pack it into canning jars. Heat wine vinegar or rice vinegar with a little sugar (just enough to balance the vinegar's acidity) until simmering, then cool it slightly. Pour the vinegar into the jars so the salicorne is completely submerged. Cover the jars with their lids and leave for at least a day before eating.

 

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