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Marsh Samphire (Salicornia europaea) Identification Guide

Marsh Samphire / Summer / Edible

Marsh samphire is a really exciting coastal plant growing around estuary marshlands, it has a brilliant salty pop.


Common Names

Samphire, Sea beans, salt fingers, glasswort


Botanical Name

Salicornia europaea


Could be confused with

Other glasswort plants. Potential to pick Sea Spray whilst picking samphire, not to worry – it’s edible too


Range and Distribution

Western Europe’s coasts including England


Habitat

Salt Marshes, estuaries, coastal sand, and mudflats


Physical Characteristics of Marsh Samphire

Samphire is an annual growing from 3-30cm tall.

It’s a succulent and fleshy plant, with opposite scale-like leaves and heavily jointed stems.

The flowers are tiny and sunken into the joints of the stems, they’re actually quite difficult to see as are the small succulent fruits containing one single seed.


Edible Use:

Stem: Salads, steamed, boiled, fried, raw, stews, pickled, candied, frozen, caramelized, pesto.


Herbal

This plant holds a vast abundance of micro and macro minerals.


Tips and Observations

The ash gathered from burning this plant was historically used in the production of soap and glass (it is a strong alkali known as potash)

Sometimes people mistake the Samphire we’re talking about here with something called rock samphire – they look completely different but have very similar names. The flavour of the two is also completely different, rock samphire is more like punchy carrot tops flavour compared to the regular samphire which has mineral rich and salty flavour. You wouldn’t want to get the two swapped in a dish as you’d be tasting something quite different. 

One of the other key differences is that samphire grows on the mud flats of most estuaries whereas the rock samphire grows on rocky edges and cliffs.

Jon Peli Oleaga, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Click here to see our rock samphire foraging guide

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