Salsola komarovii / Tumbleweed / Saltwort
Salsola komarovii, is considered one of Japan’s oldest vegetables. A gourmet speciality, popularly known as Okahijiki, it gets its name from the fact that it looks like seaweed (hijiki), but grows on land (oka). This annual plant is found in the wild growing in salt laden coastal marshes. It is cultivated, harvested and sold in Japanese markets in very small packets.
In Japanese cuisine Okahijiki is a traditional vegetable that has many uses. Often it is used as an ingredient in sushi, in dressed salads or as an accompaniment for numerous fish or white meat based dishes.
Okahijiki has more nutritional benefit than spinach. Okahijiki is a rich source of vitamin A, as well as minerals, like iron, calcium and potassium.
Store in a sealed container/bag in the fridge.
Okahijiki's delicate flavour is easily drowned out if it is mixed with other strong flavours. Try it eaten raw in salads, steamed or blanched briefly in salted water and then quickly cooled in iced water before serving. Apparently, it is really good when simply cooked in butter or oil and served while the fine stems still have their crispness intact.
Okahikiji can also be used in salads, providing a nice succulent crunch! Try it steamed or stir-fried. It is more juicy than fibrous and can be pickled to make Japanese-style pickled Okahijiki.
Simply cut the Okahijiki into 5 to 8cm (2 to 3in) lengths, sauté briefly, splash a few spoonful’s of water into the pan and put a lid on to steam it for a few minutes. Serve while still crisp. Its distinctive salty aftertaste makes it a natural friend for a nice piece of fish.
It is also commonly steamed or sautéed and then dressed with lemon and oil, usually as an accompaniment to fish. The unusual shape of the leaves makes it eye catching on the plate.
Okahijiki is used in sushi, salads or as a side for fish or chicken dishes. Leaves are blanched in salty water and added to salads. Steam Okahijiki for a few minutes and serve tossed in mustard or vinegar. The succulent leaves can also be lightly sautéed in butter or oil, and will maintain their crisp texture. Use the smaller, thinner leaves as a garnish for appetisers or use the larger leaves as a bed for fish or meat. Okahijiki pairs well with soy sauce, sesame seed oil, vinegar, garlic and raw fish.