Samphire - Crithmum maritimum - also known as sea fennel, crest marine or Sampier
Samphire, belonging to the plant genus Umbelliferae, has succulent stems which are woody at the base and branch profusely, long fleshy bright green leaves and umbels of yellow-green flowers. It is a frost-hardy perennial and is very aromatic.
Samphire gets its name from the shortening of Saint Pierre to sampere (Saint Peter, the patron saint of fishermen) and was thus called because it grows on sea cliffs and rocks. It is found in abundance around the southern coasts of Europe, South and South-West England, Wales and Southern Ireland.
The young leaves of samphire are edible but are best served pickled because the raw plant smells and tastes like varnish. It was a very popular dish in medieval England and fetched a high price at market. The use of samphire appears in many old writings, including those of Culpeper and Shakespeare. Culpeper recommended its use as an herb to aid digestion and unblock obstructions (probably referring to bladder stones).
Pickled samphire - to serve with meats and salads
- Gather young green leaves in July (in Europe) just before flowering.
- Break into 2" lengths, sprinkle with salt and leave overnight.
- Wash and drain and place in a pan with just enough vinegar to cover.
- Cook gently until tender but not soft.
- Pour into sterile jars and leave for around 4 months.