Recipies with samphire
Shores of Great Britain and northwestern Europe
Originally "sampiere" from the French "Saint Pierre". Samphire - the word is a corruption of St. Peter - was named for the patron of fishermen because it grows in rocky salt-sprayed regions along the sea coast. It can also be found in coastal marsh areas.
It is an annual plant specific to salty areas that begins growing in late fall and vegetates throughout the winter until the first warm weather arrives. Then the first stems and internodes form and by mid-spring the plant measures 6 to 8 cm.
In the old days, samphire ashes were used to make soap and glass (hence its other old English name, "glasswort.") In the 14th century glassmakers located their workshops near regions where this plant grew, since it was so closely linked to their trade.
Samphire has long been eaten in England. The leaves were gathered early in the year and pickled or eaten in salads with oil and vinegar. It is even mentioned by Shakespeare in King Lear:
Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!'
…referring to the dangers involved in collecting it on rocky sea cliffs!
Samphire is known for its digestive and anti-flatulent properties. Culpepper wrote in the 17th century that samphire was useful in curing ailments relating to "ill digestions and obstructions," while being "very pleasant to taste and stomach." It also contains diuretic and depurative properties and is rich in iodine, phosphorus, calcium, silica, zinc, manganese and vitamins A, C and D. When pickled, it was often taken along by sailors on ocean voyages to combat scurvy.
The crisp, salty, fleshy tender stalks of young samphire, gathered in May or June, can be eaten raw, plain or with a vinaigrette, alone or in a salad with other ingredients. As the season progresses samphire becomes a bit bitter and it is better to blanch it. Just a few minutes in boiling water will remove its bitterness and excess salt. Sometimes called "poor man's asparagus," it is delicious when boiled and served on its own or sautéed in a pan with butter, garlic and parsley as an accompaniment to fish, red or white meats or poultry. It's also delicious made into soup with twice its weight in half-cooked potato, a little butter and pepper. Pickled samphire is excellent with cold fish and meats, charcuterie or raclette. It can also be used to flavor mustard, mayonnaise or vinegar.