Marsh Samphire is in season in the UK between the months of June and September, although it may vary slightly depending on your location.
Midsummer’s Day is the traditional start of the samphire picking season.
There are thought to be a few different varieties of Marsh Samphire in the UK, the most common type you will find is the bright-green Salicornia europaea.
If the Marsh Samphire you are collecting has a purple tinge to it, it may well be the variety Salicornia ramosissima.
Both varieties are edible and tasty.
Where does samphire grow? Does samphire grow in the UK?
Marsh Samphire grows all around coastal areas of the UK.
You will usually find it wherever you have salt marshes and/or mud flats.
It is not a particularly hard plant to find or identify and when you find some, there will usually be much more of it around.
I can vouch that it is very prevalent in Norfolk and Suffolk, so if you are nearby, it is worth exploring.
It is also quite prolific in Wales.
Is picking samphire illegal?
It is technically illegal to uproot samphire without permission.
You don’t want to do this anyway, as you don’t eat the root of the plant, only the tips.
Uprooting also damages the habitat, so please try not to do this.
How to harvest Samphire
Take some robust scissors with you and snip the tender tops off of the plant and store them in a basket or bag.
Other than paying attention to the safety aspect of being out on the marshes, it’s as simple as finding a decent patch and snipping off the tops.
Although you can store it, like with all wild foods, only take what you need.
You can always come back another day!
Is samphire seasonal? Is samphire available all year round?
No, as above the UK season runs from approx June through to September.
Outside of these months, samphire disappears, usually with the frosts in autumn.
You may be able to purchase samphire in the shops outside of the traditional UK growing season, but this will likely have come from abroad.
Is samphire good for your health? How healthy is samphire?
Yes. Marsh Samphire contains a number of vitamins minerals and antioxidants that are considered to be especially good for your health.
These include minerals magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium, along with vitamins A, B and C.
Samphire also contains fucoidans, which are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidant effects.
Do I need to cook samphire?
No, you do not need to cook Marsh Samphire.
It can be eaten raw. However, it is also very tasty when cooked.
How to cook samphire
Steaming for around 5 minutes is the best way to cook samphire.
Once served, it benefits from having a dob of butter melted over it, but is by no means essential.
If you have a younger plant, or just have the more tender tips, then you can just eat whole and enjoy.
If you have a more mature plant, you will find that it has a stringy/woody middle section along most of its length.
You can easily deal with this by running the steamed samphire through your front teeth while holding on to the base.
This strips off all the tender flesh and leaves you with the stringy fibrous part in your hand which can be discarded.
Can you eat samphire raw? Can you eat samphire cold?
Yes, Marsh Samphire can be eaten raw (cold).
If you are going to eat it raw, make sure you go for the tips of the plant only, as these won’t have the stringy central fibre in them.
You can eat there and then, on the marsh, or save for later.
One of the best ways to consume samphire tips is to add them to a fresh salad.
The samphire gives the salad a new dimension, of saltiness and iodine, but you can overdo it, so just use a few.
Is all samphire edible? Can you eat rock samphire?
In the UK, both types of samphire are technically edible, these being Marsh Samphire which we are discussing here and Rock Samphire.
Although linked by name, they are actually very different plants and species.
Marsh Samphire is usually the variety Salicornia europaea and rock samphire Crithmum maritimum.
However, although Rock Samphire is deemed edible, most will not like the flavour as it contains aromatic chemicals, one of which is pinene, which is an ingredient of turpentine, hence why it tastes so awful!!!
If you are after good samphire for eating, go for Marsh Samphire, as this is the variety that is known for its culinary credentials.
Is samphire a seaweed?
No, samphire is not a seaweed.
It is actually a member of the goosefoot family, and looks more like a small cactus without the spines!
Marsh samphire generally grows on tidal mudflats, sometimes quite prolifically, and looks quite different to seaweed.
This extremely meditative video from Andy Ballard shows him foraging for Marsh Samphire on the Bristol Channel.
What does samphire taste like? Does samphire taste like seaweed?
No, samphire does not taste like seaweed. It has its own flavour, which is actually very pleasant.
It’s more like salty asparagus, which is delicious, but the salt can be overpowering if you eat too much of it, so take it steady.
How many calories does samphire have?
Samphire contains around 25 calories per 100 grams consumed.
This is for samphire when served on its own, such as when steamed/boiled or eaten raw.
If adding other ingredients, then this will obviously change accordingly.
How many carbs are in samphire?
Samphire contains around 1.5g of carbohydrates per 100 grams consumed, which is pretty much made up of dietary fibre.
Therefore, there are hardly any carbs in Marsh Samphire.
Is samphire the same as sea asparagus?
Yes, in other parts of the world, Marsh Samphire is known as sea asparagus.
In other locations, it is also known as samphire greens, sea beans, crow’s foot greens and beach asparagus.
Does samphire have iodine? Is samphire high in iodine?
Yes, samphire does contain iodine.
However, it doesn’t contain anywhere near as much as some seaweeds do, so samphire wouldn’t be classed as high in iodine as seaweed – although it’s a pretty decent level.
For comparison, samphire contains approx 90 micrograms per 100 grams.
Some seaweed contains approx 250,000 micrograms per 100 grams.
However, it must be noted that adults recommended daily iodine intake is 140 micrograms per day, so a decent portion would easily get you up to this.
Does samphire contain iron?
Yes, samphire contains iron. It also contains vitamin C and calcium.
Samphire also contains antioxidants, which in combination with the other vitamins and minerals make it an extremely healthy plant to eat and a great addition to your diet.
Is samphire good for you?
Yes, as long as it has been collected from a clean environment, samphire is very good for you.
As mentioned above it contains:
- Vitamin C
It is low in fat, low in carbs and makes for a delicious and nutritious foraged find.
Where to buy samphire in the UK
Not liking the sound of all that mud? You can always purchase some samphire first to see if you like it.
Samphire has become quite a trendy thing to eat over the last few years, so you may see it on the menu at good restaurants.
If you live near the coast, you may be lucky enough to have it available at a local shop or stall.
Failing that, some supermarkets now stock it, including Waitrose, so you should be able to get hold of some one way or the other.
So, when is samphire in season in the UK?
Usually between the months of June and September. with Midsummer’s Day being the traditional start of the season.
Keen to pick up some more free foraging goodness???
Take a look at our foraging section for more articles on such things as limpets and gorse flower.