Marsh samphire (Salicornia europaea) is an edible, salt-tolerant succulent that grows in salt marshes here in the UK. It’s a delicious salty treat that’s quite pricey in the supermarkets although the taste is so strong you don’t need very much of it. However, if, like me, you are lucky enough to live near somewhere it grows, why pay when you can forage? Also known as green salt, sea asparagus, Saint Peter’s herb (the patron saint of fishermen) and mermaid’s kiss, marsh samphire is full of nutrients being rich in vitamins and minerals. Here, I show you how to find marsh samphire, how to identify it and how to cook it.
Please read my guide to safe and sustainable foraging before picking or eating anything from the wild.
Where to find marsh samphire
Marsh samphire is plentiful in the salt marshes along the coast near where I live. It grows in the mud or sands around salt marshes, estuaries and tidal creeks in West Sussex. In the late summer and early autumn, you’ll also find sloes, blackberries and rosehips growing along the sea wall.
How to identify marsh samphire
Marsh samphire is a succulent with fleshy green, heavily jointed stems and fleshy leaves and looks a little like a miniature asparagus plant. Pick the youngest, brightest green plants being careful not to pull up the roots. The easiest way to do this is to use scissors to just cut off the bright green ends of the plant.
Rock samphire is a similar-looking but unrelated plant that is also a salt-tolerant succulent and edible but far less common than marsh samphire. Sea spray (also know as seepweed, sea blite, or sea rosemary) when young also looks a little like marsh samphire and grows in similar places but it is also edible and the leaves can be used in the same way.
When to pick marsh samphire
It can be picked from late spring and throughout the summer. Be careful not to uproot the plants. Use scissors or pinch the thinner, younger shoots, avoiding the slightly yellower thicker stems. Later in the summer into autumn woody stems develop which aren’t so nice to eat but you can keep eating the fresh green shoots.
As always when foraging, only take what you need, where it is growing in abundance and never uproot any plants.
How to cook marsh samphire
Wash the samphire thoroughly and eat it sparingly raw in salads or lightly steamed, boiled or sauteed in butter for about two minutes. Do not add salt as it is naturally very salty and avoid serving it with salty foods like bacon or anchovies. It’s traditionally served with fish and also works well with eggs, lamb or potatoes. Try it with new potatoes tossed with butter and a little parsley. My favourite way to eat samphire is with roast potatoes. It’s a match made in heaven!
Roasted new potatoes with samphire
Roasted new potatoes with samphire
- 20 new potatoes
- 80 g samphire
- olive oil
- Turn on the oven to a high heat.
- Wash and cut the larger potatoes in half.
- Parboil the potatoes for about 8 minutes until they are starting to soften.
- Place the potatoes on a baking tray and drizzle in olive oil.
- Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, turning them occasionally so that they are coated in oil.
- Boil, fry or steam the samphire for about two minutes.
- Sprinkle the lightly cooked samphire over the potatoes and serve.
Hello, I’m the writer, photographer, and walking guide, behind Sussex Walks. I was born in West sussex and have lived here all my life (apart from a few years in Bristol while at university studying Zoology, Botany and Psychology).