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 is a bit of stunner to look at. It has vibrant green stems 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 reveals a surprising texture, biting into a stem the tubular leaves and branched stems are juicy with a crisp texture and salty flavour.
Its delicate flavour is easily drowned out if it is mixed with other strong flavours. It is best either eaten raw in salads, steamed or blanched briefly in salted water and then quickly cooled in iced water before serving. It is wonderful when simply cooked in butter or oil and served while the fine stems still have their crispness intact,
Okahijiki is an annual plant that is very easily grown either in the garden or in containers, the plants grow vigorously in warm weather. An interesting plant for home gardening or for home cooking!
Sowing: April to July or sow in early Autumn
Okahijiki is considered to be very easy to grow, but the seeds do need warm temperatures in order to germinate. Wait until daytime temperatures reach 23 to 26°C (73 to 78°F), Sow seed 5mm (¼in) deep in seed trays of compost. The seeds germinate in around 7 to 10 days, occasionally a little longer.
Apart from the germination phase Okahijiki not especially a heat-loving plant, which means it can easily thrive outdoors in summer. The plants can be transplanted outdoors or can be directly sown outdoors. Sow the seeds in 5mm (¼in) deep rows, with rows 10cm (4in) apart. Once seedlings large enough thin to 15cm (6in) apart, these thinnings can be eaten.
You can grow the plants in containers or outdoors in the garden or allotment. They can be grown in a greenhouse or in a polytunnel, where it will thrive.
Okahijiki tolerates poor soil but needs sunlight. Though the plant is often grown in saltwater irrigated land, it will grow without salt water. Keep the plants moist, but not too soaked, they don’t need to paddle in the water. In nature okahijiki usually grows usually near the sea and thus can withstand salt water, but it can grow in regular water and does not needed to be watered with salt water.
This annual plant grows to around 12in (30cm) tall and can be harvested until it flowers. It starts to flower when the days become shorter, but it does not mind the cold and can be grown in winter if protected.
Harvesting: June to October.
Harvest in 2 to 4 weeks for babyleaf or leave to grow for 6 to 8 weeks for 5 to 10cm (2 to 4inch) spiky leaves, The plants can grow to be 25 to 30cm (10 to 12in) tall at maturity. Cut cleanly with a pair of scissors and gently water the tray after harvesting,
The plants can be cut several times during the growing season and the younger shoots are, of course, more tender. Harvest young growth regularly and harvest the whole crop once the 10 to 15cm (4 to 6in) as they becomes somewhat inedible once flowering commences.
Okahijiki has more nutritional benefit than spinach and is crunchy in salads and softer when 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
The genus Salsola is distributed in central and south-western Asia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. The genus comprises of about 24 or 25 species, in the subfamily Salsoloideae in the family Chenopodiaceae (Amaranthaceae). A plant family that holds among it vegetables like spinach and beet. It is a halophyte (a salt-tolerant plant) that typically grows in coastal regions and can be irrigated with salt water.
Salsola komarovii is native to Asia and Siberia. Originating on sandy, saline beaches the amount of naturally grown Okahijiki has decreased in recent years due to development near the shores. In Japan it is now also cultivated inland.
The genus name Salsola is from the Latin salsus, meaning ‘salty’. A common name of various members of this genus and related genera is saltwort, for their salt tolerance.
The species name komarovii is for Vladimir Leontevich Komarov (1869-1945), the Soviet botanist, geographer, and public figure. The name is pronounced comb-uh-ROVE-ee-eye, and is occasionally found spelt komarovi, with one ‘i’.
Komarov’s name was officially attached to the Botanical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Leningrad and to the mountain-taiga station of the Far Eastern Scientific Center of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in Ussuriisk about 60 kilometers from the China–Russia border.
A prize in his name was established by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, to be awarded once every three years. Komarov was a deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR at its first convocation. He was awarded three orders of Lenin and a number of medals. There are a number of species named komarovii.
Salsola komarovii, is commonly known as Okahijiki (or Oka hijiki) in Japan. It gets its name from the fact that it looks like seaweed (hijiki), but grows on land (oka). It resembles Japanese-Hijiki seaweed but due to the fact it is grown on shore, it is often referred to as land seaweed or saltwort.
Salsola komarovii, Okahijiki or Land Seaweed is sometimes confused with a plant known in Italy as Agretti, Roscano or Barba di Frate (Friars Beard) , which is actually the species Salsola soda.
Salsola komarovii, Okahijiki is a smaller plant, approximately half the size of Salsola soda, Agretti.
There are a number of sea vegetables that are considered to be delicacies in modern cuisine. Their nutritional value, taste and ease of growing make these crops incredibly popular.
Known as Halophytes or 'salt-tolerant' plants, they have adapted to grow in grows in areas of high salinity either directly in salt water or in coastal areas. They are not ‘salt-loving’ plants and do not have to be grown in saline environments.
Crops such as Salicornia (Sea Samphire), Crithmum (Rock Samphire), Sea Kale (Crambe), Salsola komarovii (Okahijiki) and Salsola soda (Agretti), Sea Aster (Aster tripolium), Sea Beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima), Tetragonia (New Zealand Spinach), Saltbush (Orach) and Alexanders (Smyrnium) can be grown at home or foraged from the wild.
A halophyte is a plant that grows in waters of high salinity, coming into contact with saline water through its roots or by salt spray, such as in saline semi-deserts, mangrove swamps, marshes and sloughs, and seashores. Relatively few plant species are halophytes - perhaps only 2% of all plant species. The large majority of plant species are glycophytes, plants which are not salt-tolerant, and are damaged fairly easily by high salinity.
One quantitative measure of salt tolerance is the ‘total dissolved solids’ in irrigation water that a plant can tolerate. Sea water typically contains 40 grams per litre (g/l) of dissolved salts, mostly sodium chloride. Beans and rice can tolerate about 1-3 g/l, and are considered glycophytes, as are most crop plants. Plants such as barley (Hordeum vulgare) and the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) can tolerate about 5 g/l, and can be considered as marginal halophytes. At the other extreme, Salicornia bigelovii (dwarf glasswort) grows well at 70 g/l of dissolved solids, and is a promising halophyte for use as a crop.
Adaptation to saline environments by halophytes may take the form of salt tolerance or salt avoidance. Plants that avoid the effects of high salt even though they live in a saline environment may be referred to as facultative halophytes rather than 'true', or obligatory, halophytes.
For example, a short-lived plant species that completes its reproductive life cycle during periods such as a rainy season when the salt concentration is low would be avoiding salt rather than tolerating it. Or a plant species may maintain a 'normal' internal salt concentration by excreting excess salts through its leaves, by way of a hydathode (a type of secretory tissue in leaves), or by concentrating salts in leaves that later die and drop off.
Among the several hundred thousand of plants less than 200 species have been brought into an agricultural practice and about twenty species are predominantly present as world crop (wheat, soya, rice.) As we become numerous on this globe the pressure to explore new cultivable land is high.
Among the vast number of plants there exist some species that fit in reclaiming marginal land and to transform into a sustainable agricultural practice. With the appropriate cultivation techniques underutilised crops can make an interesting and valuable contribution to our diet.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 500mg Average Seed Count 100 Seeds Common Name Land Seaweed, Saltwort Other Language Names Agretti, Roscano Family Chenopodiaceae Genus Salsola Species komarovii iljin (komarovi) Hardiness Hardy Annual Natural Flower Time Late summer Foliage Green Height 15cm (6in) Time to Sow Sow successionally. Germination 7 to 10 days Harvest Harvest using scissors once the plants have become well developed