Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Salad with Saltwort, Fresh Berries, and Brie

My new farmers market has an abundance of things I've never heard of, but the one that first caught my attention was saltwort, aka Batis maritima. One of the local producers has carried this the past few weeks and the first week, the week I actually bought it (a sign said it went well in salads) I had trouble finding out anything about it on the internet.

Saltwort (aka turtleweed), according to the producer, grows in salt marshes. That was the knowledge I started off with--and I've found out since that it does particularly well after storms and can deal with water-logged soils for a long time, which makes it an early colonizer after devastating storms, like hurricanes. It's a succulent shrub that reaches a little over 3 feet in height. Apparently it grows better in less salty soil, which seems a bit ironic to me, since it likes salt marshes, but whatever. In the coastal, southern U.S. this is a moderately common plant (though not along all of the coastal areas). It also grows in Hawaii and California, as well as Central and South America. If you want to know more about it--such as the types of wildlife it attracts, there's plenty of information out there that doesn't actually say much at all. It attracts butterflies and has small flowers. It doesn't like shade. Et cetera. My definite impression is that most people don't know much about it--so if you know about saltwort and want to weigh in, I'd love your comments.

When I got home with my saltwort, I looked at it. It looked kinda like limp rosemary and tasted lightly salty when I picked off a couple leaves and popped them in my mouth. Salad was the suggestion I'd been given, so salad it was. I tend to trust what farmers say about how to prepare the things they're growing.

Certainly saltwort was too salty to stand alone in the salad, so I stripped the leaves off the woody stems and gave the saltwort leaves a base of lettuce. To dress up the salad, I added blackberries picked fresh from the backyard along with some of the heirloom tomatoes (also berries) I'd purchased at the growers market and some picked (and still warm) from the yard. And because I had it, and because I don't usually), I added some brie to the salad. I dressed it with a tahini-based salad dressing from my food co-op and was set with my pre-dinner salad.

I don't know where this might grow where I could actually forage it (my growers have cultivated this plant), but it's definitely a plant you can forage and in my attempts to get more people into the urban foraging movement, I encourage you to seek it out if you live where it grows!

Salad with Saltwort, Fresh Berries, and Brie
Note: The amounts below assume you're only serving yourself. Please increase accordingly for the friends that join you

Lettuce (I like salad and used about a cup and a half)
1/8 cup saltwort (leaves only), coarsely chopped
10-12 small tomatoes, halved
5 blackberries
1/2 ounce brie, cut into small chunks

Layer the salad in the order listed above and serve. In the picture above I used golden currant cherry tomatoes (so sweet! so tiny!). In one variation of this salad, I also included a green-striped tomato, called Green Zebra with an unknown variety of orange cherry tomatoes.

(For more information about heirloom tomatoes, this site is wonderful, as is Dave's Garden.)

The tahini-based dressing I used, combined with these ingredients, went well with a glass of Viogner from a local vineyard.


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