Once in a while I get lucky at the store and find an unusual vegetable I’ve never tried. Several years ago I came across sea beans which are also called sea asparagus, glasswort and saltwort in various places around the world. When I saw these little beauties, I had to buy them and bring them home. So I did.
Preparing sea beans to eat
The next challenge was to figure out what to do with them. You can eat them raw, although they are very salty, or you can eat them cooked, but they can become limp and unappealing. So I decided to follow the advice given to me by the produce guy at the market who suggested I blanch them briefly in boiling water, and follow up with a quick ice bath to chill them down and help them retain their color and crispness.
Sea Beans are high in sodium so eat them in moderation
In terms of their nutritional composition, sea beans are mostly water and carbohydrate and 100 g of sea beans contains around 30 calories and 1660 mg sodium (Source: Lu, et al. in Hortscience Vol. 36(3), 2001, p. 484). Sea beans grow irrigated by salty seawater which gives them their high sodium content. As a result, you want to use them in small quantities as more of an accent for a dish, rather than as the main event. Blanching them first also helps remove a little sodium.
Turbot with Sea Beans, Kale and Tomatoes
High sodium or not, I decided the best way to use this new vegetable was to put it with turbot, a flatfish with a mild flavor that originates from the Mediterranean, Baltic, and Norwegian seas. I paired this with kale and tomatoes in a simple sauce made with some lemon juice and a Japanese cooking wine called mirin. I added no extra salt to ensure that I did not increase the high sodium content of the sea beans and overall dish.