Samphire (Crithmum maritimum)

Samphire (Crithmum maritimum)
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Samphire, or rock samphire (Crithmum maritimum), the sole species of the genus Crithmum, is an edible wild plant found in coastal regions of mainland Great Britain. The term samphire is used for several unrelated species of coastal plant.

In King Lear, Shakespeare refers to the dangerous practice of collecting rock samphire from cliffs. “Half-way down, Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!”

It is not certain whether the following information refers to the rock samphire or the marsh samphire (glasswort).

Samphire has fleshy, divided aromatic leaves that have long been regarded as a delicacy in Norfolk and Lancashire. In former times, samphire was prepared as a pickle, but is now appearing as a garnish in London restaurants.

To prepare it for the table, samphire is trimmed of its hard root, washed and plunged into boiling water for a few minutes. It is often served with a mixture of butter and vinegar but also with butter alone. It is also delicious in Risotto (e.g. Rick Stein’s Shrimp and Samphire Risotto).

The flavour is highly reminiscent of asparagus, and samphire is sometimes referred to as “poor man’s asparagus” (although that name has also been applied to Good King Henry, Hop shoots as well as the leek).