Salicornia: Discovering Marine Asparagus

sea ​​asparagus is not, as one might think, an algae, but an edible wild plant called stained glass which is usually found spontaneously in coastal areas all over Europe. Although the common name refers to asparagus, this succulent plant is actually part of the Chenopodiaceae family and is more reminiscent of agretti.

Learning to recognize glass grass and how to use it in cooking is very interesting, especially for those who live near the sea, because it is a fairly common species and can be found on all Italian coasts , both in the Adriatic Sea and in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Therefore, it is not difficult to harvest it during the summer, getting a vegetable with important nutritional properties .

So let’s find out the characteristics of this species of wild marine asparagus also learning to cook these marinated asparagus in excellent recipes, to enhance its flavor.


plant characteristics

sea ​​asparagus ( european glasswort ) is an annual plant that we found wild in Italy . The most obvious characteristics of this species can be summarized by points, it will be useful to know them to understand where we can find the spontaneous plant to collect.

  • It’s a succulent able to withstand prolonged drought.
  • It is a halophyte plant that is to say adapted to the settlement of saline soils.
  • It belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family. (such as spinach, beets and beets).

Among the succulent plants we can define the sea asparagus like a succulent , although it is certainly not a cactus. The term, in fact, indicates plants capable of living in water scarcity, capable of accumulating their own consistent reserve of water which allows the plant to d survive a long time in dry environments and therefore withstand hot summers.

The fact that it tolerates saline soils, from which it also derives the name “glasswort” p allows the plant to live by the sea and even near brackish water marshes .

In the botanical family of Chenopodiaceae, we also find agretti (monks beard), another edible plant typical of the Mediterranean coasts, which has characteristics similar to those of sea asparagus. The genus “salicornia” includes several species , we are talking about the European glassware as it is the easiest to find in Italy and it is interesting because it is eaten and is rich in nutritional properties useful for the organism.

How to recognize sea asparagus

sea ​​asparagus spreading in thick bushes, with an average height of about 25/30 centimeters , are quite easy to recognize because the stems of this species are very characteristic: vertical, fleshy and of good diameter, with very attached leaves, so much so that they look like scales. The comparison with asparagus is due to a certain resemblance to wild asparagus, but there is no botanical reason for this, since it is a completely different plant in every way.

The cycle of this spontaneous plant is annual: it grows from the beginning of spring, developing green stems, in summer it is in its best vegetative stage and for this reason it is the best time to harvest it , while with the arrival of autumn it blooms and then goes to winter. The flowers are in the axils of the leaves and are small in size.

By colonizing brackish soils, the window forms green spots on the coast, which are a typical coastal ecosystem called salicornieto . These areas have significant ecological value. because they are the habitat of many species of migratory birds. For this reason if you want to harvest sea asparagus, you must always do so while respecting the preservation of the species avoiding completely deforesting the salicornieto but contenting ourselves with taking here and there barrels in sufficient quantity for our consumption, so that the plant can continue to live.

Where to Find and Collect Glassware

You won’t easily find sea asparagus in supermarkets or stores. Like many other wild plants, you have to know how to find and recognize this plant to taste it.

For those who want to harvest crystal to prepare a good dish of sea asparagus, it will not be difficult to find this plant, as long as you know where to look for it and do it at the right time. As already explained, the plant finds its habitat in the saline soils of the coasts, so it should be looked for by the sea or near salt marshes.

In Italy they are often found in the Venice area, throughout the lagoon, in glimpses along the Adriatic coast, in Tuscany and especially on the Tyrrhenian Islands.

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When harvesting sea asparagus

The ideal harvest season begins at the end of May and continues until the end of July, so we are talking about a plant summer function .

sea ​​asparagus cultivation

Although in theory the cultivation of glass grass is possible, you should know that it is not easy . Indeed, the plant has very particular characteristics, so we cannot simply think of planting it in the garden as we do with many other edible plants. In fact, it is a species that proliferates spontaneously if it finds the right climatic, soil and water conditions, but does not develop if they are lacking.

If we want to grow sea asparagus we must provide them with a substrate similar to that of coastal areas it is therefore necessary to create a soil of earth mixed with a quantity of sea sand , which has the adequate salinity required by this plant. What is unpleasant is that the supply of sea sand creates a perfect environment for fiberglass, but makes the plot unsuitable for all other horticultural crops. The plant cannot therefore be included in the usual crop rotations, it must be taken into account “sacrificing” a piece of land by making it unusable for several years . For this reason, I advise against growing this plant, because if you just go and get it, you can enjoy it for a pleasant walk by the sea.

If this assumption does not discourage you, you can continue anyway, remember to choose a sunny position . Sea asparagus reproduces by cuttings or by seed, you will not find the plant in the nursery, but you can fetch it spontaneously and harvest it during the fruiting period , then between late summer and early fall. After sowing the glass grass at the beginning of March, it is necessary pay special attention to irrigation , avoiding stagnation. The dosage of the amount of water is the additional difficulty that must be faced before harvesting.

Nutritional properties

Glass grass is characterized by its purifying properties and contains many mineral salts . It also has a good content of vitamins, especially B and C, and of course iodine.

Sea asparagus is good for the body, as long as it watch out for salt container. Therefore, they are not the healthiest foods for everyone, despite their many useful nutritional properties.

Recipes and use

After harvesting the glassware, we can decide how to cook it: it is an excellent cooked vegetable, perfect to serve as a side dish. We discover not only some ideas to put into practice in the kitchen, but also how we can preserve sea asparagus.

Recipes with sea asparagus

Glasswort is a cooking vegetable, it is cooked in the same way as agretti, with a very fast cooking, so you only have to blanch it. What traditionally accompanies fish dishes , since it was found by the seashore by fishermen. It is in fact an accompaniment that lends itself to many combinations.

The method of preparation is identical to that of the other most famous chenopodiaceae (beetroot, spinach, agretti), but because of its salt content, consider soaking the sea asparagus in water for about an hour before cooking them. Also remember that the main course should not be too salty, since it already has a tasty side dish. The tortilla with sea asparagus is a very good alternative idea.

Yo the perfect seasoning with the classic extra virgin olive oil, is lemon juice, or even vinegar: the flavor of this vegetable goes perfectly with an acid aroma.

How to Store Glassware

We have seen that this wild grass is harvested in the summer, so we can only have it fresh for a few months of the year. However, some methods can be useful to preserve it and put it on the table throughout the year.

Sea asparagus in oil. Canned asparagus is a good way to preserve fiberglass in oil for a long time. The recipe is very similar to other vegetables in oil, requiring the vegetables to be blanched with water and vinegar to ensure dangerous bacteria, such as botulinum, do not grow. By following the tips for safe storage, you can learn how to make this preparation wisely.

freeze glassware . This plant we can also decide to put it in the freezer, it is better to wash it first and perhaps cut it to the touch.

Dry glassware. If we decide to dry the sea asparagus, we must know that we will lose most of its qualities, since the result will certainly not be comparable to fresh vegetables. However, dry glassware is interesting as a seasoning in the kitchen, especially tasty to put in soups. Ideal drying is best done with a professional clothes dryer.

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