Vol.4, No.9B, 40-44 (2013) Agricultural Sci ences
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN A CCESS
Economic value and exploiting approaches of sea
asparagus, a seawater-irrigated vegetable
Litian Feng1,2*, Bin Ji3, Bin Su2
1Jinan Winsir Biotechnology Co., Ltd., Jinan, China; *Corresponding Author: fenglt2004@sina.com
2Shandong Seawater Vegetable Biotechnology Development Co. Ltd., Jinan, China
3Department of Ecological Science, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Received August 2013
Sea asparagus is a newly emerging seawater-ir-
rigated vegetable. Firstly, the economic value of
sea asparagus was introduced, and then, some
exploiting approaches of sea asparagus wer e fully
reviewed. The exploiting approaches mainly in-
clude fresh vegetable, pickle, bio-salt, health-
care products, animal feed, vegetable oil, bio-
diesel and skin-care products.
Keywords: Sea Asparagus; Seawater-Irrigated
Vegetable; Econ omic V alu e; Ex ploiti ng Appro ache s;
Seawater-irrigated vegetables are newly emerging veg-
etable varieties of the world’s agriculture industry. After
many years of screening, domestication and breeding re-
search and with modern biotechnologies, scientists have
accomplished selecting halophytes with inherently high
salinity tolerance for use as crop plants, and breeding
them to new cultivars with good taste and rich nutrition
for human food. Not only can these varieties of vegeta-
bles be irrigated directly with seawater, but also they
contain rich nutrients and have unique health benefits for
human beings [1-5]. Seawater-irrigated vegetables can
endure high salinity, which means they are suitable to
grow on salt marshes, saline wasteland and desert, and
they can be irrigated with full-strength sea-water. There-
fore, it is a significant solution in agriculture in terms of
saving fresh water and turning barren land into arable
Growing crops directly with full-strength seawater on
saline wastelands for human food resources has been a
fancy dream of mankind for a long time, and it has also
been an aim for scientists to accomplish. The emergence
of seawater-irrigated vegetables is a milestone for the
development of the seawater-irrigated agriculture in the
In recent year s, sea asparagu s, a seawater-irrigated veg-
etable, which is suitable to grow on coastal deserts and
saline land, is gradually applied in agriculture industry
worldwide. This new seawater-irrigated vegetable has al-
ready been applied for human food in many countries,
such as the United States, Mexico, the Netherlands, Sau-
di Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Eritrea, Australia, Canada, New
Zealand, South Korea, Japan and China [5-7].
Sea asparagus has many common names. It is respec-
tively called glasswort, saltwort, pickle weed, sea bean,
sea ginseng, samphire or marsh samphire in different co un-
tries and places [7].
Sea asparagus originated from halophyte and its sci-
entific name is Salicornia spp. According to the litera-
ture, the genus of Salicornia belongs to the Chenopodi-
aceae family or the Amaranthaceae family and is com-
prised of 25 to 30 species. It is dicotyledonous and her-
baceous annual and has articulated succulent and cylin-
drical stems. In the later stages of growth, the plant ap-
pears leafless and its stem turns woody. Plant height is 30
- 90 cm. The color of the plant is green or purple. The
flowers are sessile and mostly arranged in 3-flowered
cymes per bract. The bracts are opposite, connate and the
flowers are tightly embedded in cavities of the main axis
and partly hidden by the bracts [8,9].
Sea asparagus has a unique salty flavor, with vividly
deep green color and beautiful coral-like shape and crisp
taste. Since sea asparagus can be grown on saline marsh
land and irrigated with seawater, it can dramatically re-
duce the chances of catching diseases. Therefore grow-
ing sea asparagus can avoid using pesticides and fertiliz-
ers. It can meet the requirements of organic vegetable
L. T. Feng et al. / Agricultural Sciences 4 (2013) 40-44
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. O PEN A CCESS
producing process, since it is domesticated from wild
salt-tolerant plants without gene modification. The whole
growing process is eco-safe and organic [7].
3.1. Nutrient Composition of Sea Asparagus
The nutrients of sea asparagus includes at least protein,
amino acids, β-carotene, vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin B1,
etc.), marine mineral and trace elements (sodium, po-
tas-sium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc,
manganese, iodine, selenium, etc.) and a number of bio-
logically active substances (polysaccharides, alkaloids,
etc.) [6,7].
3.2. Herbal and Therapeutic Value of Sea
Sea asparagus not only can be used as a unique vege-
table for food consumption, it has been an herbal medi-
cine as well. According to the literature and folk reme-
dies, it has been believed, for a long history, that Sea
asparagus shows effects on curing obesity, hypertension,
constipation, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, sepsis and can-
cer. In recent years, with the fact that sea asparagus has
been increasingly cultivated worldwide, people start to
pay close attention to the medicinal and nutritiona l value
of sea asparagus. Many studies on nutritional and me-
dicinal mechanisms of sea asparagus have been carried
out. Up to now, the herbal and therapeutic value of sea
asparagus has been scientifically proven. I t is effective to
strengthen the immune system, diminish inflammation
and prevent atherosclerosis, hypertension and tumors. In
addition to having effects on anti-oxidation and an-ti-
aging, sea asparagus also shows effects on weight loss
and skin w hitening [1 0-25].
3.3. Growing Sea Asparagus as an Oilseed
Crop in Tropical and Subtropical Areas
In tropical and subtropical regions, sea asparag us is an
oil crop that can be irrigated with full-strength seawater.
Its seeds are rich in oil, oil content of the seed ranges
from 26% to 33%. The polyunsaturated fatty acids of the
seed oil account for more than 90% of the total fatty ac-
ids and particularly the percentage of linoleic acid in the
total fatty acids is nearly 70%. Up to now, the best spe-
cies of Salicornia spp. as an oilseed crop is Salcornia
bigelovii [1,3].
The seed oil of sea asparagus is rich in linoleic acid,
an essential fatty acid of human body that has important
physiological functions. The linoleic acid cannot be pro-
duced naturally w ithin the body, and it must be absorbed
by food intake. The seed oil also contains relatively high
linolenic acid, which is the precursor of body prostag-
landin synthesis. Therefore, the seed oil of sea asparagus
is an ideal healthy vegetable oil, compared with the tra-
ditional vegetable oils. It has excellent an-ti-oxidation
and anti-aging fu nc tions [1, 7 ,26].
Despite growing sea asparagus as a new sea-water-ir-
riga ted vegetable has already gradually been applied
worldwide, unfortunately until n ow, it is still in the early
stage of its agriculture industry development. The main
reasons of sea asparagus not having been cultivated in
large scale at present are: first, consumers have limited
knowledge of consuming sea asparagus as a vegetable;
second, sea asparagus is a seasonal vegetable, and as a
fresh vegetable it is not ea sy to transport, so its shelf life
is short, which is the “bottleneck ” of seriously restricting
the industrialization of sea asparagus. There-fore, to break
through the “bottleneck” and to promote the industriali-
zation of sea asparagus, the most important solution is to
research and develop the processed products of sea as-
paragus, with a longer storage time and easy for trans-
At present, some processed products of sea asparagus
have appeared in some markets around the world [7,27].
In general, the exploiting approaches for sea asparagus
include at least as follows:
4.1. Primarily Processed Products of Sea
Making pickle, by adding salt, sugar or vinegar, is the
most common way for producing the primary level of sea
asparagus products. These products are usually packaged
in cans, ceramic pots (ja r s) or transpa rent plastic bags.
The primarily processed products of sea asparagus al-
so include dehydrated vegetable (i.e. freeze dried vege-
table), vegetable juice and vegetable powder, which can
not only be eaten or used directly, but also provide raw
material for other processed foods, such as vegetable
noodle, vegetable steamed bread, vegetable dumplings
and series of convenient snack foods.
4.2. Deeply Processed Products of Sea
Currently, some deeply processed products of sea as-
paragus have already been sold in the markets world-
wide, some products using sea asparagus as a main raw
material, while others as an auxiliary material.
The deeply processed products containing sea as-pa-
ragus include at least nutri tion tablets (chewable), mine r-
al water, liquid seasoning, nutrition (diet) pills, nutrition
(diet) granules, and sea asparagus capsules have already
been in the market.
L. T. Feng et al. / Agricultural Sciences 4 (2013) 40-44
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. OPEN A CCESS
4.3. Producing Bio-Salt Is an Important
Approach of Exploitation for Sea
Bio-salt means the salt is produced from biomass
feedstock (plants, animals or microbes) by fermentation
and other bio-technologies. The whole production proc-
essing involves no any chemical substances added and
complies with the requirements of low sodium table salt
and mineral-balanced table salt. It has beneficial bio-
logical effects and can promote human health [28,29].
The main characteristics of bio-salt are as follows: I.
of biomass origin, esp. plants; II. Of naturally low-so-
dium salt with perfect balance of mineral elements; III.
Being rich in organic nutrients and bioactive substances;
IV. Without any chemical additives; V. Being helpful to
the prevention and treatment of hypertension diabetes,
kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and some other
diseases. Therefore, bio-salt is an ideal table salt substi-
tute for patients who have hypertension, cardiovascular
disease, kidney disease, stroke and diabetes. It is be-
lieved that bio-salt will lead a green revolution in edible
salt industry in the world.
Sea asparagus is an ideal resource for bio-salt, be-
cause, first, irrigation with sea water brings sea aspara-
gus rich in sea minerals, which ensures a high efficiency
of bio-salt producing; second, sea asparagus contains
unique polysaccharides and alkaloids, which ensures the
nutritional and medicinal value of bio-salt; third, sea as-
paragus has a long history as a food source, which en-
sures bio-salt with no side effects. Therefore, to produce
bio-salt is an important approach in terms of exploita-
tion of sea asparagus [28,29]
4.4. Producing Animal Feed Is an Important
Direction of Exploitation for Sea
Sea asparagus is rich in nutrition and has important
medicinal value, therefore, animal feed production is an
important direction of utilization of sea asparagus [23,
There are already some applications put into practice,
first, directly adding crushed dried sea asparagus to the
feed as a salt and nutrient supplement; second, fresh Sea
asparagus after fermentation is used as animal feed addi-
tive. It can effectively improve animal immune system,
which replaces or reduces the use of antibiotics; third,
the residues after producing bio-salt and after extracting
oil from seeds are excellent sources of feed protein.
4.5. Producing New Vegetable Oil and
Bio-Diesel from Sea Asparagus Seeds
In tropical and subtropical regions, people can extract
edible oil from the seeds of sea asparagus [1,7,26,27].
Moreover, seed oil of sea asparagus can also be used in
cosmetic and skin-care products. In addition, the seeds of
sea asparagus are rich in linoleic acid, which can be used
to produce conjugated linoleic acid. The conjugated li-
noleic acid has magical medical effects on cardiovas-
cular and cerebrovascular diseases, breast and ovarian
cancers and it can also improve human immunity and
help to los e weight [31].
In addition, using seed oil of sea asparagus to produce
bio-diesel has drawn more and more attention of the
world. Because sea asparagus can be irrigated with sea-
water, they can be grown at coastal beaches and deserts
in a large scale in tropical and subtropical regions to pro-
vide feedstock for biodiesel. Obviously, to produce the
bio-diesel from sea asparagus seed oil will effectively
avoid the disadvantages of growing traditional energy
plants in competition of food, fresh water and arable
soils with human kind. This will be an important devel-
oping trend of bio-energy for the future in the world [27,
4.6. Other Industrial Uses of Sea Asparagus
In history, sea asparagus was ever a traditional raw
material for production of glass and soap, so the whole
plant or residues of sea asparagus can be used as raw
materials for daily chemical products, such as soap, shower
lotion, tooth paste and series of skin-care and cosmetic
products. It can not only pro-vide abundant marine min-
erals, trace elements, unique natural substances of an-
ti-oxidation and skin whitening, but also improve the
added value of the products so as to bring more benefits
to the production enterprises [18-20,27].
Since sea asparagus can be grown on seashores, sa-
line soils and desert and completely irrigated with sea-
water, spreading the cultivation of sea asparagus across
the world has a significant ecological and social meaning
with respect to solving the issues of the growing scarcity
of fresh w ater and arable soils resources.
China has abundant saline land and seashore re-sources,
cultivating sea asparagus in a large scale will be a signif-
icantly beneficial strategy. Currently, agricultural devel-
opment and utilization of coastal beaches are mainly aq-
uaculture, so appropriately combining mari-culture with
seawater cultivation of sea asparagus will be a compre-
hensive approach for the future [7,27].
To sum up, there are some ways to develop and util-
ize sea asparagus, including fresh vegetable, pickle, bio-
salt, health-care products, animal feed, vegetable oil, bio-
diesel and skin-care produ cts. It is believed that, through
reasonable planning and overall arrangement, by the build-
ing of the product line of sea asparagus, the large-scale
L. T. Feng et al. / Agricultural Sciences 4 (2013) 40-44
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. O PEN A CCESS
and industrial development of sea asparagus will be rea-
lized in the near future.
This work was supported by the Hebei Provincial Scientific and
Technology Development Projects Fund (No. 07220602D), the Shan-
dong Provincial Scientific an d Technology Development Projects Fun d
(No: 2011YD10012) and the Shandong Provincial Technical Innova-
tion Projects Fund (No. 2012119010 27).
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