Salicornia is a plant genus with many names: marsh samphire, samphire greens, sea asparagus, sea beans, glasswort, pickleweed, picklegrass, and more. Beachgoers from around the world have encountered these hardy and adaptable plants. And before conferring with their regional neighbors, they often add yet another name to the list.
Despite thriving in salty environments, all Salicornia species are succulents. But rather than adapt to these conditions, they control for the dehydrating salt in the surrounding water. In North America, these plants are known as “marsh samphire” and flourish on both coasts. Foragers pick the briny, crunchy seashore snacks during the summer months, when each pea-green segment is already seasoned and plump with salt water. Diners tend to use raw marsh samphire in salads, while the cooked version often stands in for asparagus. During the off-season, home cooks and gourmet markets turn to jars of the pickled succulent instead. Unsurprisingly, it pairs well with seafood.
Need to Know
Cooking marsh samphire brings out its salty, fishy qualities, while adding fresh stalks to salads imparts a more mild flavor profile. The sooner it's eaten after picking, the better.