IN PRAISE OF…. SAMPHIRE
If you are heading to the British coastline this Spring or Summer, watch out for samphire, the ultimate classy freebie.
Samphire is a sea vegetable that grows abundantly on shorelines, in marshy shallows and on salty mudflats. It is similar to asparagus (but better), has a crisp texture, and tastes of the sea. It is a delicious freegan favourite.
Collecting samphire is a coastal British tradition; in the 17th Century Shakespeare referred to the dangerous practice of collecting rock samphire from cliffs, saying: “Halfway down, Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!”
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has said “This native plant is tasty, goes brilliantly with fish and, if you can be bothered to go looking for it, completely free.”
Also known as Glasswort, Samphire isn’t really a seaweed, but it grows along the coastline and around estuaries and tidal creeks. It’s a succulent plant of the salicornia species and looks like a miniature cactus. It has a satisfying crunch (you can eat it raw) and is delicious and unique.
Some popular holiday seaside destinations where Samphire can be found are North Norfolk, Eastern Scotland and Ireland.
You can gather Samphire yourself, and that adds to the satisfaction of preparing and eating it. If you are visiting or live on the coast watch out for it. To collect it, pinch out or snip off the tops of the plants, leaving the more fibrous stems in the ground; that way, not only will you have less washing and trimming to do, there’s also a fair chance that what you’ve left in the mud will continue to grow.
If you do want to buy Samphire, it can be sold at good fishmongers or at a local farmer’s market.
To prepare the plant, wash the samphire thoroughly under running water before use. Don’t add salt to the cooking water as it’s already salty enough. Use fresh in salads or serve it boiled and dipped in melted butter to be eaten like asparagus with fish dishes.
There are many good recipes for cooking samphire, many of them involve serving the plant with fish. Here are a few Come Scavenge favourites:
Wild Seabass with Shrimp Toastie, Tomato Liquor and Samphire
Roasted loin of rabbit with languistine and lardo, potato nests, asparagus and samphire
Torbay sole, mussels, leeks, samphire and monk’s beard