How to Cook SamphireJune 20, 2023
The fleshy green vegetable, samphire, has soared in popularity in recent years, aided by cooking shows including Saturday Kitchen and Sunday Brunch. In fact, in 2016 sales of samphire in Tesco alone were reported to have rocketed 80% thanks to their use as a key ingredient on cooking shows. If you’re curious to try samphire, you’ll find everything you need here to learn how to cook samphire.
What is samphire?
Samphire is a succulent vegetable with vibrant green stalks, from the parsley family, which grows along British coastlines. Norfolk and North Wales are particularly well-known for their excellent samphire-growing conditions. Although typically available all year round in supermarkets, samphire is in season in the UK from May to September.
There are two main types of samphire found in the UK and the rest of Northern Europe, although one is much more readily available than the other. The two main types of samphire available in the UK are:
- Marsh samphire – the most widely available variety of samphire. This variety resembles tiny shoots of asparagus and is found in tidal creeks and around estuaries in the UK. Due to growing amongst saltwater, marsh samphire has a distinctly salty taste, sure to bring a salty kick to any dish. If you order a meal which includes samphire in a restaurant or within a recipe box, unless otherwise stated, it is most likely that it is the marsh samphire variety.
- Rock samphire – the second variation is rock samphire (also known as sea fennel), which is a lot more difficult to find than marsh samphire. Rock samphire grows on rocks, and often at great heights, making it difficult to cultivate and harvest. Although, perhaps worth the hunt as enthusiasts often say that rock samphire has a superior taste. Perhaps at its peak popularity in the 1600s, rock samphire was even referenced in Shakespeare’s King Lear, referencing its farming as “a dreadful trade!” due to its difficulty to reach.
How to eat samphire
Used in cooking, samphire boasts a crisp and uniquely salty taste. If you’re wondering how to eat samphire, it can be used raw in salads, although most often it is cooked before eating to reduce the brine-like taste. Cooked samphire is used in a wide variety of dishes, including lemony monkfish and samphire paella. Read on for more on how to cook samphire to perfection. Samphire has also risen in popularity due to its versatility in food and drinks, such as a garnish on the ‘seaside martini’. This salty marine vegetable is a delicious accompaniment to many meals, adding just the right amount of salt, particularly for seafood and pasta dishes.
Alternative names for marsh samphire
Rock samphire is also referred to as sea fennel, but marsh samphire also goes by many different names. Keep an eye out for the following names marsh samphire also goes by:
- Sampkin – this particular variety of marsh samphire is most commonly found around the River Dee
- Sea pickle
- Sea beans
- Sea asparagus
- Salt fingers
- Crow’s foot greens
What are the health benefits of samphire?
Apart from adding a salty kick to any meal, with almost no fat, HelloFresh’s Recipe Development Manager, Mimi Morley, suggests that the health benefits of samphire are plentiful. This succulent, green vegetable is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamins A, B and C
How to cook samphire
Although it can be eaten raw, this can leave the samphire extremely sharp and salty. The best way to cook samphire is to either fry or boil it. If you’re looking for instructions on how to cook samphire, you’ll find everything you need here.
-How to cook samphire by frying
- Rinse the samphire and trim off the end of each stalk.
- Add a knob of butter to the pan, letting it heat through.
- Once butter is melted, add samphire and cook for two to three minutes, until softened. Remember, this is an extremely salty vegetable
- so seasoning with pepper is fine, but it is not necessary to flavour with salt.
-How to cook samphire by boiling
- Rinse the samphire thoroughly and trim off the end of each stalk.
- Bring a pan of water to the boil and add samphire.
- Simmer on a low heat for two to three minutes, or until softened.
- Drain well before serving. As with frying samphire, pepper is a welcome seasoning, but it is not necessary to add any extra salt.
Fun facts about samphire
If all this talk of samphire has got you eager to learn more, take a look at these facts about samphire to expand your knowledge of this versatile vegetable.
- When convicts were making their way to Australia, at the beginning of the colonisation of the continent, their diet was based around rock samphire.
- Samphire was named after “Saint Pierre” (or St. Peter), who was the patron saint of fishermen.
- Samphire are members of the plant family called Amaranthaceae. The most common type, marsh samphire, is found in the United Kingdom (especially Norfolk) and the coasts of the U.S, where it grows abundantly. If you’re visiting or live near, take a look at how to find, pick and eat samphire in Norfolk.
- Samphire retains water even after it’s been picked, which is why it has a salty taste. HelloFresh’s Recipe Development Manager, Mimi Morley, suggests that it’s therefore necessary to scale back the salt when cooking it.
- With a bit of care, you can grow your own samphire in the garden or on a window sill. To do so, plant the seeds in well-drained, lightly sandy soil where they can get some sun. Make sure to water them regularly, while adding 5ml of sea salt for every 500 ml of water.
If you’re looking to cook samphire at home but need some inspiration, look no further than these delicious samphire recipes. Why not make mealtimes even easier by trying some of these delicious recipes:
Roasted Salmon and Hasselback Potatoes
Tasteology Grilled Haddock and Samphire
Creamy King Prawn Linguine
Tasteology Paella with Veggies, Samphire and Olives