Plants are Food and so are Sea Beans

“Here, try this,” Rosendo urged. He reached out to pluck a dark purple clover-shaped leaf from the oxalis and held it out to me.

I didn’t really believe that he would lead me astray and this plant guy always seemed to know what he was talking about. I also didn’t trust that he wouldn’t try a practical joke on me. I’d already bit (gingerly thankfully) into the tooth ache plant.

Rosendo took his own bite and I carefully bit off one obovate leaf. It was lemony and not at all bad. The sort of thing I could easily see flavoring a salad.

During college and for a time immediately following I worked at a retail garden nursery (that has since closed down). It still remains as one of the best jobs I’ve ever held. The oxalis was not sold in our herb section or our vegetable section. To find this plant you looked towards the full sun ornamentals. Mostly, I recall it being a filler plant. One I hadn’t ever heard of before starting this job.

Once while taking a tour of my parent’s garden I gestured toward a hanging plant filled with rounded, bright green succulents. “You can eat purslane,” I informed my mom. My parent’s enjoy growing edible plants and eating them. Still, I believe her response was “haaa, haa, ha, ha, ha.”

Plants are out there everywhere. Yet plants are plants and food is food and never the twain shall meet. Except for every once in a while for people like me and all the time for others…such as the authors of The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes, Connie Green and Sarah Scott.

After reading about evil plants I needed to feel better about the foliage around me. Searching online under related products I came across this book. I like it. It has been checked out from the library twice already and I’m putting off turning it in now. The recipes are both foreign and familiar, but even more important it’s a comfortable read. This particular recipe was chosen randomly. I looked through the book trying to memorize every unknown or slightly known ingredient and walked into Whole Foods. The flagship location. This was one time I didn’t want a tour of Austin while grocery shopping and went for the safe…expensive…bet. Browsing the store, I hoped for mulberries, huckleberries, prickly pear or any of the many mushrooms. I saw persimmon, but couldn’t remember the trifle it went to. Sea beans called out. The book described them as tasting of “the worlds they’re a part of” the ground and sea. Carefully, I bit off a tip, expecting a grassy, barely salty taste. Nope. This is crisp. This is salty. This is like fresh cooked green bean potato chips. I like them so much I wish they were not $12.99 a pound.

Which brings me to the recipe. At this price, there was no way this fit into my budget. I made a little and rounded the meal with sweet potato cakes. I’ve included the entire recipe. Sort of. The entire recipe includes slices of boiled potatoes and seared tuna steaks.

Sea Beans
adapted from Sarah’s Seaside Sea Bean and Seared Tuna Salad

6 ounces sea beans
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup kalamata olives, quartered
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup olive oil *

Bring a pot of water to boil. Put in the sea beans and cook for 3 minutes. They will become a much darker green, but should remain crisp. Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a small bowl combine the shallots through olive oil to make a vinaigrette.

Top the beans with tomatoes and olives and drizzle with some of the vinaigrette.

* Oh, and a few more notes. I, of course, didn’t measure anything. And only used extra virgin olive oil which was perfectly okay because a very small amount of this vinaigrette was made.

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