I’m really lucky to live in a beautiful place, with plenty of wild and open spaces where I can forage. Recently my partner introduced me to a widely availablesea vegetable that made my eyes pop wide open, to his great amusement – marsh samphire.
Marsh Samphire, (Salicornia europaea) also known as glasswort, sea beans or poor man’s asparagus is a succulent that grows in rocky and marshy areas near salt water. It’s an edible member of the parsley family, and when picked in July or August or so, bursts with salty flavour. Historically it’s ashes were used in the production of glass and soap, but it’s also nutritious, and if an afternoon spent in the sunshine on a salty marsh isn’t healthy enough, Marsh Samphire is quite high in Vit C and has a slew of apparent health benefits.
There are other types of samphire, most notably rock samphire, which is more bitter and should be used as sparingly as any other herb. Rock samphire, however, can be used as a main ingredient. A lot of recipes seem to call for it to fried in butter, with some lemon and garlic, and served alongside fish, but as my partner is a vegetarian, we decided to have it as a salad.
While you can buy marsh samphire in some supermarkets, if you’re able to go out and collect it yourself the flavour is incomparable – it’s one of those ‘veggies’ that needs to be consumed as soon as possible to keep the fresh, gorgeous flavour, and it will unfortunately not last too long.
Marsh Samphire is called poor man’s asparagus, and you can see why when you see it in the ground – it looks like long, thin asparagus, and I’d say it can be eaten in much the same way as asparagus too. It is really salty, so when you’re cooking, don’t add salt without trying it first. We also found the saltiness was tamed by frying in unsalted butter and paired with edamame beans – the unsalted beans definitely complimented our salty-harvest.
As always, remember the rules of foraging and never eat anything you’re not 100% sure of!
For the salad we used edamame beans, but you can use broad beans if you’re not worried about carbohydrates, and we used a new-to me-cheese called Saganaki, a greek alternative to halloumi. It is less salty, but fries beautifully, which makes it a perfect accompaniment to this dish.
While the obvious go-to for a sea-flavoured meal is white wine, I prefer red, and a botle of La Vieille Ferme Rouge from Waitrose was just the thing.
- 250g edamame beans (roughly 2 cups)
- about a cup of samphire - not sure about weight, but use what you have.
- cherry tomatoes (we used 6)
- rocket (a handful! We picked ours fresh from the garden.)
- 1 slice of saganaki cheese, cubed (parmesan shavings would be good too - any hard cheese)
- lemon juice
- In a pot, boil the edamame beans as per package instrutions (Bring water to boil, add beans, boil for about 4 minutes, then strain and set aside in a salad bowl.)
- Cube the cheese, slice the tomatoes in half and make sure there are no roots on the samphire.
- Add a teaspoon of butter to a frying pan, and add the cubes of cheese. Lightly fry them till they are a golden brown colour. Add to the edamame beans.
- I prefer raw tomatoes, but if you wish you can lightly fry them now and add to the salad bowl.
- Add two tablespoons of butter to the frying pan, along with the garlic and a squirt of lemon juice and quickly add the samphire. Stir well for two to three minutes, don't let them become too limp.
- Add to the rest of the salad, mixing it up.
- Add in the fresh rocket and serve immediately with a medium bodied French red wine.