How Harvesting Sea Salt Reflects A Deeper Approach For CDC Jordan Miller & LBI’S Black-Eyed Susans

Jordan Miller, chef de cuisine of Black-Eyed Susans in Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island, NJ, started making sea salt in November, 2014. Still perfecting it, he was happy enough to start packaging and selling it in June, which is when I caught up with him over two trips to LBI. He recently launched his brand, The Salty Shoreman Spice Co. His first product, Old Barney Sea Salt, is sourced up the road from the restaurant at Barnegat Light. 

The air coming off the bay drowning out the smell of our coffee, we pull into a small gravel parking lot abutted by a short stretch of beach where ten to twelve women appear to be napping for the moment amidst the water’s lazy sloshing.

“Look at this baby—yoga on the bay while picking sea beans,” Jordan Miller says, and we just drink our coffee and stare out into nothing for a moment.

Best restaurant in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Seafood restaurant. Black Eyed Susans. Chef Jordan Miller.

Sea beans. Courtesy of Jordan Miller.

It’s early. The night before, I had eaten at Black-Eyed Susans on Long Beach Island, NJ, where he’s the chef de cuisine, and I took him up on doing a short run of early morning foraging. Two weeks prior, with summer looming, I randomly decided to head down the shore after spotting another of his prep-heavy Facebook posts. I needed an excuse.

The double slam of the doors punctuating downward facing dogs and returns to plank, the yoga ladies in motion again, we walked over to a few sprawling patches of sea beans, coffee cups in hand.

They looked like weird, mutated versions of asparagus that branched off like cactus in clusters great for staging a shot with the action figures you grew up with.

Standing a good two hundred feet from the bay, Miller says, “these guys don’t want too much water. Just a spray, some dampness.”

And then we’re ripping them out by the handfuls, trying not to pull up the underlying root systems with them—at least it was an effort for me.

“They have a nice brininess,” he says, the bay sloshing in as he ripped up more, and I’m thinking of when I first saw these alien, tuber-looking bundles in a basket in the produce section. Crunching a few right there, the ocean was suddenly written across my mind.

“You get that little bit of green in the background,” I reply, the bay receding.

Our two plastic crates are filling fast. The yoga ladies in their rhythmic lilt, I ask:

“What are you going to do with them?”

And Miller cocks his head to the side for a moment. It couldn’t be any later than 8:30am.

“Ehhh…They’re going in a dish with sliced raw tuna, blanched bok choy, and wild arugula dressed with a sweet soy-miso dressing,” Miller says.

As I’m picturing the enjambment of vegetal and bitter elements paired with cubes of chilled tuna—all accented with the dressing—we walk back to the truck, our crates brimming, the yoga ladies coming towards us on the way to their cars, the bay perpetual in the background.

I say I couldn’t think of something better to go with fresh, raw tuna.

“Exactly,” he says, and the doors slam shut again and we just sit in the cab for a moment. I start to complain about how tired I am before realizing that I’m in a truck with someone who’s about to jettison the concept of having a day off.
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