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Thursday, 16 June 2016

Samphire : The Vegetable From The Sea


Samphire is a sea vegetable that grows abundantly on shorelines, in marshy shallows and on salty mudflats. It has a crisp texture and tastes of the sea.

Buyer's guide:
Good fishmongers will sell samphire. Otherwise, try looking for it at your local farmers' market.

Preparation:
Wash 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.



Samphire:
Pronounce it sam-fire

Though there are two types of samphire - marsh and rock - only marsh samphire is widely available. Marsh samphire has vibrant green stalks, similar to baby asparagus, with a distinctively crisp and salty taste. It can be used raw in salad, though it tends to be very salty so it is more often boiled or steamed for a few minutes. Rock samphire has a rather unpleasant smell and flavour. Occasionally you may also find jars of pickled samphire in gourmet shops.


Availability:
Samphire is at is best in July and August.


Choose the best:
Buy bright, fresh looking plants with no signs of wilting.

Prepare it:
Wash thoroughly under cold running water before eating.

Store it:
Buy samphire as you need it - it doesn't keep for long. If you must, tightly wrap and refrigerate for not longer than a few days. 

Cook it:
Steam over a pan of boiling water for a couple of minutes and serve with melted butter.

Alternatives:
Try asparagus.

Details from here

Samphire, some more facts ... it's named after the patron saint of fishermen, and mentioned in Shakespeare's 'King Lear': These words from Wikipedia:
"Originally "sampiere", a corruption of the French "Saint Pierre" (Saint Peter), samphire was named after the patron saint of fishermen because all of the original plants with its name grow in rocky salt-sprayed regions along the sea coast of northern Europe or in its coastal marsh areas. It is sometimes called sea asparagus or sea pickle. In Norfolk it is commonly called sampha [sam-fa]. In North Wales, especially along the River Dee's marshes, it has always been known as sampkin.

Marsh samphire ashes were used to make soap and glass (hence its other old English name, "glasswort"). In the 14th century glass-makers located their workshops near regions where this plant grew, since it was so closely linked to their trade. Many samphires are edible. In England the leaves were gathered early in the year and pickled or eaten in salads with oil and vinegar. It is mentioned by Shakespeare in King Lear:

"Half-way down Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!" (Act IV, Scene VI). This refers to the dangers involved in collecting rock samphire on sea cliffs." 

More from Wikipedia here

I hope you've enjoyed reading this article. The sea as well as providing us fish helps to provide this vegetable too, perhaps enjoy it in a summer salad!

Before I sign off, I must just thank 'Chris c' who gave me the idea for this article. He said samphire is 'perfect with fish of all kinds, and in a good year the season runs from asparagus to runner beans..'

All the best Jan

7 comments:

Rose said...

I've never heard of samphire before--I doubt it's even available in my part of the U.S. Very interesting history of this vegetable! I guess I'll have to stick to my asparagus--and I don't have to climb a cliff to pick it:)

Jo said...

I've never tried samphire. It seemed the contestants on Masterchef used it in just about every dish a couple of years ago and I meant to get some to try then but I still haven't.

Tara Crowley said...

brand new information for me as well. if i can find it, I'll give it a try.

eileeninmd said...

Hello, samphire is new to me. I am not sure if I ever seen it in one of our food stores. I will look next time. Enjoy your day and the weekend ahead!

Snowbird said...

Oh, how interesting! I've never hearzd of this, must look out for some.xxx

The Happy Whisk said...

If I saw this in my area, I would for sure try it. Love the green. Love it.

Joy said...

I just had samphire!
We stopped for dinner at a local restaurant in Oudeschild, Texel Island along the north shore of Netherlands and there it was in display of the fish counter, labeled "zeevenkel"- green and beautiful and new to me.

I asked for a sample, which they happily provided, and I liked it so much I ordered a side of it to go with our kibbelin (fish and chips, basically). It is delicate in texture with a fresh green flavor like cucumber, but with a fresh, soft salty sea flavor and a burst of juiciness with each little crunch. It was my favorite part of the meal, though the meal was very nice.