For the last couple of years, the sea asparagus man (I am sure he has a name but I call him the sea asparagus man), has been selling sea asparagus and other "aqua culture" at the the farmer's markets and some of the specialty markets around town, and I occasionally pick up a package of it to throw into salads and such.
If you aren't familiar with it, sea asparagus tips, are a tender and crispy sea vegetable. (It also sometimes goes by the names; pickleweed, glasswort, sea bean, sea pickle or marsh samphire). Sea asparagus is reported to be packed with phytochemicals that protect the liver, heart and cellular DNA. It is also rich in vitamins A, C, B2 and B15; amino acids; and minerals, such as iron, calcium and magnesium. When you bite into it, it is crunchy and you get a burst of moist, salty flavor, reminding me of an ocean spray. If there were really mermaids, I imagine that it would be tops on their vegetable list! ;-) Marine Agrifuture LLC, the company that produces and sells their Kahuku sea asparagus tips in Hawaii, are pickling it (going to try that at home), making a tomato-sea asparagus salad and using it in seasoning mixes. It is grown hydroponically on Oahu’s North Shore in salt water ponds and grows year-round here.(Here is the link to the website with pictures of the ponds and more info.)
Wanting to take it a step up from my usual just tossing it into a basic green salad as an extra item, I used part of my last package to make it a main player in a simple Sea Asparagus-Poke Salad. Poke, is a Hawaiian dish made up of cubes of raw fish, (most commonly ahi), marinated in sesame oil, seaweed, onions, chili peppers, soy sauce, etc. It is a favorite dish of mine and I have featured it and variations of it before on this blog. (Look under "ahi" for these posts). I decided to keep it simple, using the sea asparagus in place of the seaweed and adding some local tomatoes and avocado. Because the sea asparagus is so salty itself, I kept the shoyu (soy sauce) down to a minimum and used rice vinegar, lime juice and sesame oil in the marinade.
Sea Asparagus-Poke Salad
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
1 (6-8 oz) piece or block of fresh, sashimi quality ahi
1 cup fresh sea asparagus
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped avocado
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 green onion, green and white parts, sliced thinly
1/3 cup chopped, toasted macadamia nuts
Mix all ingredients together and gently toss with dressing and garnish with additional sesame seeds (I used black and regular).
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp shoyu (soy sauce)
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp crushed red chili pepper flakes
1/4 tsp black pepper
Blend all ingredients together and toss with salad ingredients.
Notes/Results: Excellent--refreshing and cool. Slightly salty with a little kick from the chili pepper. This salad has a nice contrast of textures from the crispy sea asparagus to the crunch from the mac nuts and the creaminess of the avocado. Everything in the salad itself and the limes for the dressing are local Hawaii products. For me, just a bowl of this salad is a perfect light lunch but it is also good over rice or on top of watercress, arugula or salad greens. A fun and different dish, trying it makes me want to do more with the sea asparagus, so look for it in later posts.