Posted on October 4, 2017 by Neil Ungerleider

The plants turning bright red in the salt marshes on Greenbelt properties might be called “salt horn,” though they are commonly known as Glasswort or Pickleweed.

Salicornia is a salt-tolerant plant which grows on muddy stretches of the marsh that flood during high tides.  Green in the summer, it often turns red as winter approaches.

Salicornia

The name Salicornia means salt horn, referring to its branches.

Historically its ashes were long used as the source of soda ash needed for making glass or soap, but some varieties of the plant are edible and others are the source of oil that can substitute as either a cooking oil or that put in chicken feed.

As a vegetable, the edible varieties are often called sea beans, samphire greens or sea asparagus.  Due to its high salt content, it is cooked without salt in plenty of water.  It is often served coated in olive oil or butter. 

The redder it is, the higher its salt content.

The oil from certain varieties is said to be equivalent to safflower oil and that is getting attention as a potential crop, especially in areas of the country that can only be irrigated by salt water.

 Salicornia grows in many places around the world and was first discovered in the New World by American botanist Jacob Bigelow who is also well-known for establishing the first rural garden cemetery in North America at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

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