Have you tried samphire before? It's a delicious seasonal vegetable that grows near the coast. Samphire is most commonly blanched or steamed but it can also be fried or even eaten raw in a salad. Find out how to cook samphire and get some cooking tips.
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What is samphire
Samphire is a plant type known as a succulent halophyte, meaning that it grows in salt water or salty soil.
There are two types of samphire - rock samphire and marsh samphire.
The most common type is marsh samphire. If you’ve bought some from a greengrocer, fishmonger or supermarket it’s almost definitely marsh samphire.
Marsh samphire is most common in the coastal areas of Norfolk and Suffolk in the United Kingdom where it’s eaten as a summer delicacy. Read more about foraging samphire.
NB: if you've foraged your own samphire it may be thicker and take longer to cook.
Rock samphire VS marsh samphire
Rock samphire, sometimes known as true samphire, grows on rocks and cliffs. It has a strong, some would say unpleasant, smell.
Traditionally it was pickled. In Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book*, she gives a recipe for samphire pickle from 1939 which contains peppercorns, horseradish, vinegar, cider and salt - as well as the samphire of course.
Marsh samphire on the other hand, grows on muddy salt marshes. It is also known as glasswort. In fact it used to be used by glass makers. Marsh samphire is more common and is the kind I've used here.
What does it taste like?
Marsh samphire has a strong taste that is quite unique. It is fairly salty so it's best not to add salt while cooking.
When is samphire in season?
Samphire season in the United Kingdom is fairly short - from May to August.
How to store samphire
Samphire doesn’t keep for long. Store in the fridge and use within 2-3 days of purchase.
How to prepare samphire
Jane Grigson* says that the best method to prepare samphire is simply to rinse it well, trim off the root, then boil or steam for several minutes. Serve with butter.
If you've foraged your own samphire, you may need to trim the ends. Most shop bought samphire will only include the tips of the stems, meaning that you can use all, or most of what you have.
What to serve it with
Traditionally samphire would have been served alongside fish. As a vegan however I prefer to eat my samphire with pasta, as a side dish or in a salad.
Here are some vegan samphire recipe suggestions:
How to cook samphire
Samphire is easy to cook. Young stems can be eaten raw in salad or added to sandwiches as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recommends.
- Boil it for five minutes then serve with vegan butter or olive oil and black pepper.
- Boil in salted water, cool, then serve with a salad or eat raw if preferred.
- Steam it (see recipe below).
- Add to pasta.
- Fry it in dairy free butter or olive oil, season with black pepper (salt not needed).
How to steam samphire
1. Wash the samphire and cut off the stems if needed.
2. Fill the bottom of your steamer with water and bring to the boil.
3. Place the samphire into the steamer basket.
4. Steam for 5-10 minutes until soft. Remove from the heat and serve.
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How to cook samphire
- 70 g marsh samphire
- Wash the samphire well and cut off any thick stems.
- Fill the saucepan part of your steamer with water and bring to the boil.
- Place the prepared samphire in the steamer basket. Cover with a lid and steam for 5-10 minutes until soft.
- Remove from the pan and serve.
- Samphire can also be blanched, fried or eaten raw (if young).
- To blanch samphire add to a pan of boiling water (no need to add salt) and boil for 3-5 minutes until soft.
- Nutritional information is approximate and is intended as a guide.
If you like this you might also like my guide to cooking courgettes.
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