Last weekend, as part of the Ka Hua program I’m involved in as a teacher, we participated in a service project removing ‘akulikuli, or sea purslane, from delicate anchialine ponds. This low-lying plant can be found sprawled out near shoreline areas, as it can tolerate brackish water and wind, salt, and sea conditions. Also known as pickle plant, it is indigenous to Hawaii, and probably got the nickname from the salty flavor of the leaves.
When maintaining anchialine ponds, a special and important feature of Hawaii’s coastlines and ecosystem, the ‘akulikuli are often removed from the edges of the ponds to prevent it from choking out the other native grasses that need to survive in order to maintain balance. The shallow ponds are found set back from the shore, usually surrounded by trees and shrubs and sometimes contain tiny red shrimp, or ‘opae ula. If you see one of these ponds, please don’t enter the water with any sunscreen on or bathe with soap or shampoo.
If you come upon the ‘akulikuli plant, feel free to clip some leaves, wash them well, and toss them into a salad, poke, or any dish that needs a salty, crisp bite. I threw some in a watermelon salad for a sweet and salty combo, see the recipe below. If you’d like to help maintain the anchialine ponds too and see the plants growing near them, please check with the landowners or park personnel before removing them.
Sweet and Salty Salad
This recipe is featured on Kahakai Kitchen
5 cups watermelon, chopped and deseeded, rind removed
1/2 cup cotija cheese crumbled (feta would work great, too)
1/2 ‘akulikuli leaves, roughly chopped
In a medium bowl combine watermelon, cheese, and ‘akulikuli. Stir gently with salad tongs. Enjoy!
*Hawaii grown watermelon purchased at KTA, ‘akulikuli found on Kona coastline, cheese is from Costco but is not locally sourced.