Forage Wild Food

Foraging for Rock Samphire: an edible coastal wild food

Wild Rock Samphire – Crithmum maritimum
(In Irish: Craobhraic)

Not all food has to have a price tag. Some of the tastiest treats out there can be foraged for free!

Like many people today I have a fascination with survival and dystopian futures. I often wonder if I would be able to survive in the wild if things started to ever go haywire.

Here at SpilltheBeans, I aim to capture those thoughts while also educating people about wild edible food. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way.

Rock Samphire

Great for those who simply want to grab and snack on the go while visiting the seashore. Rock samphire can be found in abundance in coastal areas, particularly on rocks by the sea. Its season lasts from May until around September.

Samphire is a perennial and can be identified by its green fleshy stems and wide yellowish-green flowers.

Flowering Period

When foraging in Ireland you will find that there are two samphires, marsh and rock. Marsh samphire is more abundant and easier to find. It resembles asparagus and grows in easier-to-access areas such as muddy or sandy flats and in tidal creeks.

A Cautious Rock Samphire Warning

Though Rock Samphire is not easily confused with other wild plants, as mentioned by Shakespeare in King Lear, it appears that gathering wild samphire has never been easy and one must take care.

Come on, sir; here’s the place: stand still. How fearful
And dizzy ’tis, to cast one’s eyes so low!
The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
Show scarce so gross as beetles: half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!

Edgar – King Lear

It might be a good idea to take heed of this Elizabethan rock samphire warning when climbing rocks to reach it.

What does wild rock samphire taste like?

Knowing people in times gone by have risked their lives for a sprig of rock samphire makes people wonder: “What does wild rock samphire taste like? It must taste sublime”. The answer is: it depends.

It’s true that to some samphire is simply exquisite and utterly delicious, while to others it tastes like kerosene!

This wild food’s succulent stems have a unique salty taste that can be likened to a fusion between parsley and aromatic carrot.

Rock Samphire embedded into a grey rock face.
Picture of Rock Samphire up close taken by Sarah Smith

How to eat rock samphire

You are probably wondering how to eat rock samphire. It’s easy! You can cook it in stir-fries, steam it or add it to a simple salad.

The leaves, flowers and seeds are edible and its green body is rich in aromatic oils. Even though there are people who find it particularly pungent, I think that’s what makes it unique.

There are mouth-watering rock samphire recipes for pickling that you should definitely try.

Rock samphire benefits

Rock samphire benefits range from reducing flatulence, purifying the blood and removing toxins from the body. It’s said that this wonderous plant was a life saviour to sailors and fishermen due to its high vitamin C content (30 times more than an orange) it could keep scurvy at bay. Interestingly the name ‘Samphire’ comes from the French name ‘Herbe de Saint Pierre’ Saint Pierre (or Peter) was the patron saint of fishermen. Its scientific name, as mentioned, is Crithmum maritimum.

For those who have the time and enjoy foraging in Ireland, it’s well worth taking a bag of this unique herb home to pickle. Just make sure you take care when climbing.

When eating your pickled rock samphire at home, on a slice of wholemeal bread, you will be transported back to the wild windy seaside cliffs by the distinctive salty flavours.

As always, be mindful to take only what you need. Leave plenty for others and enough so that the plant can grow back to abundance. When it comes to foraging, sustainable harvesting is key.

Happy foraging!

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