Back in May, while out gathering the fleshy leaves of American Sea-rocket on a beach in Biddeford, I noticed some tiny plants with thin, spine-tipped leaves. I was pretty sure the plants were edible, but, alas, pretty sure just isn't good enough. So I did some research and figured out that these small specimens are called Saltwort (Salsola kali). In previous years, I've seen Saltwort on beaches in late summer, but by then, as the following photo shows, the plants are wildly bushy and covered in well-developed spines.
When young and tender, the leaves of Saltwort make a crunchy, pleasing snack, as long as you remove the small spines or eat them carefully. Entire growing tips (see below) can be pinched off, cooked, and enjoyed as a tasty seaside vegetable. For more on this salt tolerant, sandy soil specialist, see Green Deane's Salsola kali plant profile.