Sea arrowgrass is an aquatic herb that packs a punch. Its cilantro-like flavor brings to mind a warmer climate and turquoise waters, making this a much-coveted herb.
Where to Find It
Sea arrowgrass is a hardy plant that can tolerate full sun and salty environments. It needs lots of water and moist soil to survive. Look for it in marshy areas along the coast that are regularly flooded by the ocean.
Salt marshes, marshlands.
When to Find It
Sea arrowgrass can be picked from May until September.
Entire plant: May, June, July, August, September.
How to Spot It
From a distance, sea arrowgrass looks like a tuft of grass with thick, puffy blades. When seen from above, the leaves look triangular, but are narrow, long and fleshy. A line runs down the surface; inside, the leaves are hollow. From its cluster at the root, the plant stands erect in the air. Its flowers look like tiny baskets with purple edges. Its seeds are stored in small, egg-shaped pods. On the stem, the flowers and seeds look like very thin, green baby corn.
How to Pick It
Cut off the leaves one by one, so you don't accidentally uproot the plant. When gathering the arrowgrass flowers and seeds, you should cut or clip the stem off. Plants growing closest to the shore will have the best taste. Don't take more than two thirds of the flowers and seeds, and pick from several plants so that you don't put too much stress on just one of them.
On the palate
Sea arrowgrass is crisp, succulent, and zingy. It has the flavor of cilantro with subtle acidic and metallic notes that are reminiscent of asparagus. It can also taste slightly briny or have a sharp aftertaste. Its flowers and seeds have the strongest flavor.
Sea arrowgrasss has no particular scent.
Sea arrowgrass can only tolerate very quick and careful preparation before it loses its flavor and crispness. You can blanch its leaves for a moment and abruptly stop the cooking process by plunging them directly in ice water. If you want to use the leaves in a dish, add them the moment you take the pot off the heat.
With its cilantro flavor, sea arrowgrass is an obvious choice for Asian and Mediterranean recipes. Adding a delightful crispness to most dishes and counterbalancing fatty and umami flavors, it works especially well with seafood dishes that need a little punch, like shellfish bisque and creamy fish soups. It also adds an intriguing edge to new potatoes, egg dishes, chicken and turkey, and grilled bell peppers. You can also use sea arrowgrass raw as a garnish, but beware— the raw herb contains prussic acid, which can be poisonous in large amounts, so consume it sparingly.
Cover with a moist cloth and store in a sealed bag or airtight container inside the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Leaves and seeds that are still attached to the stem will keep for five to seven days. The flowers should be used as quickly as possible, but can be stored in a cool, dry place.
Can be replaced with sea plantains.
Risk of misidentifying the plant
There is no risk of mistaking the plant for another dangerous or undesirable plant. There is, however, a similar-looking plant that isn't particularly tasty. Sample as you pick.