Friday, 16 August 2013

The mermaid's kiss

I always thought glasswort sounded like a good name for a bad gnome in BB's The Little Grey Men. It is of course another name for marsh samphire (Salicornia europaea) - like a breath of summer its season is short which also adds to the mystery. A delicious salty vegetable delicacy that I take great delight in harvesting on the annual family holiday to the North Norfolk coast. Harvesting bare footed through the crust of mud on the marshes it's not only the samphire that is the draw, but the call of curlew and oystercatcher. If you are lucky, as I was, you may spy a peregrine causing havoc among the bluebirds. This will divert your attention, but keep an eye on the flooding tide. 

Picked by hand in the low water gap between the tides it needs a bit of preparation before eating or preserving. Trim to remove any woody stalks and give an almighty wash to remove any flotsam and jetsam.

I like mine pickled - blanch and then fill sterilised jars with the samphire and vinegar. Leave for as long as you can. I like mine as side snack with a pork pie.  

The traditional Norfolk way is as follows: Wash the samphire well in fresh water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. It is cooked when the fleshy bits slip easily from the stalk. Serve with melted butter or sprinkle with black pepper and vinegar. You eat it by sucking the leaves off the stalks.         

One of the nicest variations I have had is a new one on me - samphire, black pudding and a duck egg on toast. Cook the samphire in the pan after the black pudding, adding more oil - the salty samphire makes a nice alternative to bacon.

Like asparagus, this sea veg season is short. We are at the tail end now, but I have a feeling it may run a bit later this year.

I am going to leave you now in the most capable and lovely hands of Mr Screw Palmer. Picking Samphire at Blakeney in 1961 (Outlook - BBC East, courtesy of the East Anglian Film Archive) a short hop from where mine came from. 


The Two Terriers said...


Enjoy your holiday, we live here all the time and it's a wonderful place.

It's not really Nelson's County more God's County but Autumn is the time.

Samphire, or 'Samfer' as they say around here, is great with dressed crab and new spuds.

Have a good time.

All the best,

John @ The Two Terriers

Dickie Straker said...

Thanks TT, a lovely county indeed and one we love too. Nowhere better for eating, fishing and generally mucking about on or near water! And what splendid beer! I have stocked up with too much so the Captain says, not enough in my eyes! TTFN, Dickie

Anonymous said...

Lovely post.
A bit too late in the year now, I fear, but next summer I will be squelching the marshes in the lovely Screw Palmer's (deformed) footsteps!

Dickie Straker said...

Thanks Anna, you can't beat the feeling of that lovely mud through your toes! It's worth it! Dickie