If you go down to the beach today you’re sure to find a samphrise….
Samphire is in season right now and it’s waiting for your children to come pick it!
Do you want to encourage your children to try new flavours and foods?
Do you enjoy outdoor walks and scavenger hunts?
Would you like some extremely tasty and healthy food for FREE?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then read on….
There “is a prize among the sea greens, if you can find it.” (Seaweed and eat it by Fiona Houston and Xa Milne)
We’re lucky enough to live by the sea… in fact we can just cross the road and access a larder of tasty goodies anytime. However if you live in Britain, the chances are you’ll visit the sea side at some point, you’re never much more than an hour away from the sea in Britain, so this could form part of an exciting day trip for school children, families, home education groups, brownies, cubs etc.
So, I challenge you to try something new this July and take a trip to the coast to see what goodies you can find.
Today we will focus on Samphire as it’s just coming into season now which means that the freshest, tenderest stalks are sitting on the beach just waiting to be found.
What do they look like?
They look like mini cactus plants – but without the prickles, they are tender and succulent in appearance and a bright green. The stalks grow to about 20cm max in height and they are usually nestled amongst some sea grasses. Some people have likened them to asparagus – I suppose the segmented stalk is a little like asparagus, but I can’t see any further resemblance apart from the short season of availability they both have in common. Here’s a picture to help identify them.
This blog post is concerned with Marsh Samphire, here is one other type of Samphire called Rock Samphire which is much rarer and found growing from dry rock faces and completely different from the Marsh Samphire we describe here.
Where is the best place to find some?
The type of Samphire we are looking at today is called Marsh Samphire, which gives us a clue as to it’s location. It is found on marshy sea mud flats. So you’ll need to find a more rustic, natural beach than the usually sandy, ice cream and deckchair type beach. We gather ours from Pegwell Bay in East Kent, but other locations include Mersea island, Orford in Suffolk, Adur river in Shoreham by the sea, The Welsh Dee Estuary, Devon and many more places in the UK. You just need to seek out a marshy mud flat and start looking.
Once you have found a good location you’ll need to wait until the tide is out a bit and then hunt around – if Samphire is there is it not hard to find, in some locations it grows so abundantly you’ll see nothing but the Samphire. Early in the Season (June to July) you may have to hunt amongst the grasses, but often it just grows straight out of the sea bed.
Do I need any special equipment?
Equip your mini harvesters/foragers with wellies or crocs (Marsh Samphire grows in the boggiest marshiest flats of the beach), a breathable carrier – a net bag, cloth bag, or a basket are ideal for collecting. A picture (laminated if possible) of the plants you are looking for will help them to seek out the treasure by themselves. * A word of caution – tread carefully and stick to the firmer parts of the mud flats – some areas can be very soft and it is easy to get your wellies stuck – my children and their friends thing this is great fun – but it can get messy and sometimes it’s hard to pull your wellies out!
How should I pick it?
The rule is NEVER to uproot it. Just take the top sections (approx 10cm). The top sections are the most tender. A pair of scissors is handy to allow you to make a clean cut, other wise you can just pinch it off at one of the segments with your fingers.
Are there any rules about collecting Samphire?
Yes, as with all foraging, never take or uproot every last bit as it may prevent regeneration. So avoid uprooting the plant and avoid stripping the beach of every bit of Samphire. It is actually illegal to uproot Samphire without permission.
When is it available?
Samphire is in season from June to August. It is a bit more difficult to find in June – you have to hunt a bit more carefully, and starts to become a bit more woody towards the end of August.
How should I eat / prepare it?
When you get the Samphire back to the kitchen give it a thorough rinse. This too can be great fun for children. Maybe fill up the sink and let them swish it around, or a large bowl or washing up bowl.
Young and tender Samphire can be eaten raw – it could be added to a salad to add some salty flavour. Alternatively the best way to cook Samphire is by steaming it for 5 – 10 minutes. This will help to retain the nutrients and warm it up nicely / tenderise it if some of your haul is a bit woody.
You could add some butter as you might do with asparagus. In fact you could use Samphire in any way you might use Asparagus – as a dipper for a runny boiled egg, alongside fish such as Salmon or Smoked haddock, serve it with poached eggs, or just as a vegetable accompaniment to any meal. A fun way of trying it would be to put out some dips such as yogurt with cucumber/mint, hummous, garlic mayonnaise and let your mini foragers dip the samphire into those for more experimental tasting.
If you get really into collecting and eating Samphire and would like to incorporate it into some recipes – consider using some recipes from here I’ve also put together a collection of recipes and resources to help you get started on my Pinterest page. Click here.
In my house the Samphire is usually devoured before anything else makes it to the table.
*You might find when collecting Samphire later in the season (August) that the stalks might become a bit woody, it is still perfectly edible, but you’ll need to shred the tender parts from the woody part of the stem with your teeth whilst eating. *
What does it taste like?
Samphire (being a sea vegetable) has a very salty flavour which my children go absolutely mad for. It is (like most sea vegetables) a good source of iodine, along with a host of other vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, D and B vitamins, iron calcium, manganese and zinc to name but a few.
So – I challenge you – if you try one new thing in July – make it a bunch of Samphire. If you don’t live near to a beach it can be bought from a supermarket/farmers market for approx £2 for 100g. But if you can get there, it only adds to the fun and it is absolutely FREE!