As the sea warms over the summer months, a new coastal pastime begins to gain serious appeal. Samphire is a strange-looking primitive plant which thrives in the brackish water and mud of saltmarshes and estuaries. Despite this it is one of the very few wild plants to be on widespread sale in Britain. Upmarket fishmongers sell it at inflated prices while expensive restaurants use it to decorate choice dishes as well as harnessing it’s delicate flavour which is reminiscent of salty asparagus.
Samphire grows around the year, but paddling through mud and sodden sand in winter is hardly enjoyable. On warm summer days, however, it is a positive joy to slip off one’s shoes and walk through the warm ooze in search of this strange, but delicious, plant. Quite apart from the exercise expended in the picking, it has other healthy benefits. It is rich in trace elements and vitamins and the tender young stalks are best picked in summer months – mainly for the temperature reasons outlined above. It will keep in the fridge for three or four days (store it dry rather than in water), but is best eaten fresh.
Make the most of its flavour by steaming it quickly to accompany fish or white meat. Alternatively it can be eaten on its own dressed simply with butter or a light vinaigrette. The stalks contain thin fibres as they age and can be tough. In this case ignore table etiquette, tip your head back and gently ease the flesh off against your teeth.