Okahijiki (aka land seaweed)

by sophie on June 30, 2007 · 18 comments

Post image for Okahijiki (aka land seaweed)

During my last visit to our lovely local purveyor of organic fruit and vegetables I was offered a special treat, a sample of a new plant they were experimenting with. “Okahijiki – you’ll never remember the name, but it’s also called land seaweed”.

True to prediction, my ability to do an internet search and find out what to do with my find was severely hampered by the fact I had indeed forgotten its name, and even more so any notions of how to spell it. Eventually, I managed to work my way back to rediscovering okahijiki via tales of plains and Western movies: despite the literal meaning of the name being land hijiki (hijiki being seaweed), okahijiki is a member of the salsola family, or tumbleweeds.

It’s a bit of stunner to look at; vibrant green with subtle purple streaks and that fantastic springiness that you get with succulent plants (a quality often to be found in the garden but not often in edible plants). A first tentative taste of a sprig of raw okahijiki reveals a surprising texture, like biting into a stem and expecting something fibrous and bit stringy, but getting something crispy and juicy instead. The taste is also on the unexpected side. First bite is a mustard, peppery taste. So far so good, this seems tasty, reminds me a little of rocket … wow, where did that salt come from!?!


Okahijiki close up

My first cooking experiment with okahijiki was to add a little to a stir fry with all of the usual veg and sauces. Turns out this isn’t the best thing to do as despite it’s distinctive flavour it seems to get easily overpowered when it is a minor ingredient. Second time lucky (and the method I would recommend) is to cut the okahijiki into 2 – 3 inch lengths, saute briefly, splash a few spoonfuls of water into the pan and put a lid on to steam it for a few minutes. Serve while still crisp – it’s distinctive salty aftertaste makes it a natural friend for a nice piece of fish (we had trout fillets).

I was very taken with my okahijiki sample – the flavour is distinctive but its real draw in my opinion is that crunchy, crispy texture. In terms of recipes, aside from the simple treatment suggested here the only other significant use I have found mention of seems to be for Japanese-style pickled okahijiki. Next time I manage to get hold of some then I’d love to have a go at this stunning looking sushi at batish.net.

Seeds seem to be available in a few places and knowing that it has been grown a mere couple of miles away from my house makes it very tempting to try and grow some okahijiki in the garden. Sadly I am really not very green fingered at all so I’d be delighted to hear from anybody who has tried to grow some themselves about how they got on, or similarly if you know any good okahijiki recipes!
This post is my entry for the fabulous weekly Weekend Herb Blogging event, hosted this week by Kalyn at Kalyn’s Kitchen.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Kalyn June 30, 2007 at 14:42

Wow, fabulous entry. I ve never seen this or heard of it before. I love finding out about new plants like this, and this sounds like it would be very fun to try to grow. If it grows wild, it would probably not be that hard to grow in a garden. Look forward to hearing if anyone has tried growing it.

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Wendy June 30, 2007 at 20:04

Sounds intriguing. The mix of crispiness and salt really appeals to me. Have no idea where to locate this up here. I do know where some samphire grows though. Will try your steaming method with that.

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MeltingWok July 2, 2007 at 10:15

WOw, I’ve not heard of okahijiki. But, I remembered seeing it on TV, some korean cooking show where they use this to stir-fry with heaps of garlic and sesame oil. I wish I can find them in the States.

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Helene July 2, 2007 at 17:39

Thanks for introducing a new herb to me. Sounds very interesting. I have to seek it here, because I´m very interested in substituting salt. :)

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Sophie July 9, 2007 at 13:28

Kalyn – I’m glad I managed to find something new to you. Not at easy thing to achieve now that WHB is so popular :-)
Hi Helen, I suspect that the plant is fairly high in sodium so not great if you are avoiding salt for health reasons. A samphire recipe I saw suggested blanching it and then reviving in cold water to remove some of the salt so you could try that technique if you ever find any okahijiki!
Wendy – lucky you, having a secret samphire source. I reckon most of the same cooking methods will work so I’ve been keeping an eye out for samphire recipes to try out on it next time.
MeltingWok – stir frying with garlic and sesame oil sounds great. I think my mistake with the stir fry was to use lots of other ingredients at the same time when I should have just left it simple!

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bea at La tartine gourmande July 10, 2007 at 22:27

I definitely need to try this. Thanks for the great tips Sophie!

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Peter August 8, 2007 at 14:08

Evening! Just had some of this tonight for the first time and it was great. A woman I work with made some and brought it in. She recommended dropping a bunch into boiling water for 45 seconds to a minute, then immediately removing it and rinsing under cold water. Shake out/off the excess water and gently squeeze the bunch to remove more (don’t crush it in your hands, just gently squeeze it to remove a bit more liquid). In the meantime, put some regular shoyu (not the “light” variety due to the high salt content) in a glass bowl (two or three tablespoons, perhaps) and a dash / squirt of Japanese mustard paste to taste and whisk together. All of this is to taste, of course, but you don’t want to overpower this plant with mustard. Add the okahijiki to the bowl and toss to cover. Cover bowl with cling wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes or so until very well chilled. Remove the okahijiki from the sauce/marinade and gently shake to remove the excess. Place in a small chilled bowl and serve/eat immediately. Really nice. The texture is crunchy, while the salty and spicy marinade bring out a lot of the flavor — great food to have on a hot, muggy Osaka night! Cheers!

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Michelle Williams August 16, 2007 at 15:27

I have okahijiki growing in my Suffolk coastal garden in abundance! I bought my seeds from Moles Seeds in Colchester. Sowed in March in cold frame. Germination was erractic and growth slow to begin with. Then the rain started and the plants shot up…. We pick the shoots young and use them raw in salads, older parts can be cooked like samphire. (Blanch 1 min max and refresh). Fab with fish, brilliant in sushi. Also flash fry, drain and dip in light soy as a snack.

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Charles Dowding February 9, 2008 at 08:58

It is fascinating to find this because I grew Okahijiki last year as an ingredient for my salad bags. It is something of a surpise or mystery ingredient, with its unusual crunchiness and hint of salt flavour. I am also just writing about it in my new book ‘Salad Leaves For All Seasons’, coming out March 2008.

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Mark Tabler April 11, 2008 at 01:04

Neighbors needed to know what it was. Raw foods friends identified it, I ate it raw,liked it, and now I’ll use it both in Korean food, and in Japanese.

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Tracey Steele June 2, 2008 at 07:21

My husband bought a plant from Yorkshire Lavender whilst we were on holiday last week. I had absolutely no idea what to do with it, so was delighted to find this website. I was also pleased to see that Charles Dowding has included it in his new book as I have just ordered a copy!

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Lane September 10, 2008 at 22:29

I grow a seaweed garden! Please contact me. I love all your facts on seaweed!! I think you are SO awesome.

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mary September 20, 2009 at 14:00

I would like to get in contact with Lane who has a seaweed garden.
How do I contact her?
Mary

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Dia February 28, 2010 at 20:12

I just picked up seed yesterday from Nichols Nursery (Rosemarie Nichols McGee was speaking about container gardening, & kindly brot seed racks!) & looking for more info found this entry!! I think I got some at our farmer’s Mkt last year.
‘okahijiki’ is easier for me – hijiki was my son’s favorite seaweed, looked like little black worms! I was fascinated to read on another site that it’s in the tumbleweed family, as I grew up with those (Central Oregon – the dry side of the mountains!) & wonder if others are edible in the young stage??
I intend to put some kelp on when I plant it, so it will have access to those great micronutrients.
I also got Crambe maritima seed – there’s a naturalized colony at the Oregon Coast that I’ve visited since the mid 70s, & a friend has a few plants from seed he gathered there. It’s a perenial ‘kale’ like plant, so needs a permanent home :)

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Amanda Catmur August 5, 2011 at 21:01

Thank you! We’ve just had our first taste of the unpronounceable ‘okahijiki’ cooked the way you suggest – sautéd followed by a brief steaming with a few splashes of water. It was delicious and I shall certainly try to find a regular source of the elusive seaweed. Many, many thanks.

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jp September 14, 2011 at 08:27

what is the botanical names of this plant ?
salsola XXXX ?

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My Suburban Homestead April 16, 2012 at 23:51

Interesting post. I found these seeds through Nichols Garden Nursery and am going to give them a shot this year. I am hoping for a texture like that of the expensive seaweed in seaweed salad at Japanese restaurants.

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Danai July 30, 2014 at 16:18

Hello! I am thrilled to find that information, as this veggie is sold nowdays widely as a salad in Greece in taverns and restaurants! It is boiled rapidly in water, its tender parts, strained and served with memon and olive oil as we do in Greece. You can also find it in the market and also cultivated organicaly. I was hoping to find its nutritional value, but it seems that except from easily assumed info for green vegetables there is no elaborate research. I found information that the cultivated seeds are imported from Italy, but the photo in your article matches exactly what it looks like. Small World, is’nt it?

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