There are two types of samphire. Marsh
samphire grows in estuaries and salt marshes while rock samphire,
sometimes called sea fennel, grows on rocky shores. The two are
understandably confused since they are both connected with the sea, yet
they are completely different plants. The type likely to be sold
by a fishmonger is marsh samphire. It is also known as glasswort and is
sometimes called sea asparagus, as its shoots are similar to sprue,
small asparagus shoots.
Although marsh samphire grows easily and is
commonly found all over Europe and North America, it is not cultivated
and is only available for a short time while it is in season, normally
in late summer and early autumn.
Samphire has a distinctly salty, iodine
flavor and a pleasant crisp texture. The flavor is reminiscent of the
sea and goes particularly well with fish and seafood. However, samphire
can be enjoyed simply steamed and dipped into melted butter.
Buying and Storing : When in season,
good fishmongers get regular stocks of marsh samphire, and it should
look bright and fresh. Buy it as you need it, as it will not keep for
Preparing and Cooking : If necessary,
wash marsh samphire under cold running water. It is best steamed over a
pan of boiling water for no more than 3 minutes. Alternatively, blanch
it in boiling water for 3-5 minutes and then drain. Samphire can be
eaten raw but blanching it removes some of the saltiness. To eat
samphire, draw the shoots through the teeth to peel the succulent part
from the thin central core.