What is sea asparagus? I first heard of it a few years ago and, oddly for me, only tried it this year. It vaguely resembles asparagus – in much the same way that it looks like swollen rosemary. In other words, if you close your eyes, rub them really hard and look at the asparagus in a dimly lit room while wearing 3D glasses, it may or may not look exactly like asparagus (wild or domesticated).
Sea asparagus goes by many other names including sea bean, saltwort, pickleweed and even marsh samphire.
All kidding aside, it’s wonderful to eat.
Sea asparagus is a rare plant that grows really well in and around salt water. When it’s fresh, it’s very moist (it almost explodes in your mouth like a water chestnut) and it’s taste is that of the ocean. Rinse it well before serving it; it is eaten raw or cooked. To cook it simply blanch it for 10-20 seconds or warm it in butter. For this recipe I used the heat of freshly cooked rice noodles to ‘cook’ the sea asparagus.
I’ve never seen it at a grocery store and we don’t live near the ocean. A few foraging companies have had shipments brought in from the East Coast over the last few years.
Sea Asparagus Pasta – Ingredients
- 1.5 pounds rice noodles (you could use any noodle you wish)
- 0.5-1 pound sea asparagus (use lots!)
- Juice of 1-1.5 lemons
- 0.25-0.5 cups finely grated Parmesan (I use a rasp)
- A few real good glugs of olive oil
- a sparse amount of salt and pepper to taste
Sea Asparagus Pasta – Instructions
- Cook noodles in lots of boiling salt water and strain (do not rinse).
- Rinse the sea asparagus well. You may need to pick out any ‘extra bits’ of the sea (such as twigs) from when it was harvested.
- Add Parmesan and toss until it melts into the pasta.
- Add juice of 1 lemon, toss.
- Add olive oil, toss and taste. Add more olive oil as you go. It will take more than you think you need to balance the lemon – and that’s ok! Olive oil is here as flavor (and not just a pasta lubricant) and being too timid with it will result in pasta-with-cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
- Finish with salt (you shouldn’t need a lot if any at all; the sea asparagus is plenty salty) and pepper.
Optional ingredients: while the pasta boils, cook a small amount of minced garlic (1-3 cloves, chopped fine) in a tablespoon of butter. Add that before the olive oil.
What would you do (or have you done) with sea asparagus?