Pickleweed is the common name applied to a group of flowering plants found on the beaches and sandy shores of the Pacific Northwest. Locally it may also be called Woody or Perennial Glasswort. Pickleweed grows as a small shrub with an irregular contour. A main stem is barrel-shaped and will have many jointed branches with small scaly leaves. The plant is usually a dark green but may turn red in the fall.
Highly tolerant to salt water, Pickleweed is common in coastal areas where historically it was harvested by Native Americans as a food. As the common name suggests, it has a vinegary flavor similar to that of a dill pickle. It can be eaten either cooked or raw, and many farmers and ranchers will also use it as fodder for livestock.
The plant may have other uses as well. Studies are currently underway to see if Sarcocornia perennis could be used in the production of bio fuels. Others are evaluating the plant as a useful component in the ecological restoration of salt marshes due to its ability to bioaccumulate harmful substances and thereby help to cleanse contaminated coastal areas.
Different species of this plant are found all over the world in saline habitats and may alternately be known as samphires, glassworts and saltworts. In the Pacific Northwest, this plant can be readily found in tidal wetlands, estuaries and on the edges of bays in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.