Sea beans, otherwise known as sea asparagus and pickleweed, belong to the genus Salicornia, marsh plants that thrive in salty soils. (PhotoAlto/Laurence Mouton/Getty Images) Sam Norton didn’t think too much about the first sea beans he foraged from the fragrant pluff mud just north of Charleston, South Carolina. In 2003, he was a curious kid attending marine science camp, and he relished crunching on the salty shoots as a summertime novelty. As he began a master’s program in environmental studies more than a decade later, Norton began to experiment with sea bean cultivation, hopeful he could one day sell the crop to local restaurants and markets. Last November, Norton realized his vision when he delivered his first harvest of sea beans to local restaurants and produce distributors and opened up direct online sales. The beans, which Norton packages in 30-gram plastic containers, come from Heron Farms, his nontraditional agricultural venture located in one of Charleston’s industrial neighborhoods. Instead of growing the beans in the mud, Norton cultivates them inside a 90-square-meter room in a warehouse, in what might be the world’s first indoor saltwater farm. It’s a test case for saltwater agriculture, which Norton believes has the power to […]

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