Okahijiki (aka land seaweed)

by sophie on June 30, 2007 · 19 comments

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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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