Sunday, January 27, 2008

Samphire

Anna from Anna's Cool Finds is the host of this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and I've found something that is extremely cool, Samphire!

samphire

It may look a bit otherworldly but as soon as I saw them at the Farmers' Market I just knew I had to buy them. They have been a bit of a holy grail of ingredients for me - much talked about, never seen.

samphire ©

This Samphire hails from Wilson's Promontory here in Victoria. Samphire is a salt water plant and as such, is quite salty. Though it may slightly resemble really fine asparagus, taste wise they are quite different.

Samphire can be eaten raw though I wouldn't recommend it - it has a slight crunch to begin with and after the initial burst, the overpowering flavour is of salt.

For something that I've waited so long to try, there are really only a few ways to enjoy it. It can be pickled but not wanting to go that route, I've opted for the simpliest.

It is boiled in unsalted water for a few minutes - this allows the Samphire to lose some of its excessive saltiness and softens it which gives it a more pleasurable texture.

You do need to keep an eye on it as it will go too soft very quickly. Once boiled, drain and toss in unsalted melted butter. No seasoning is needed.

samphire ©

The butter just balances the dish out, adding a touch of sweetness and leaves the Samphire with an attractive sheen.

17 comments:

  1. I've seen this at the farmer's market in California but never tasted it. Very interesting post. I would love to try it too.

    In Utah there is a plant that grows by the Great Salt Lake which the locals call "pickleweed" and I'm sure it must be a variety of this plant. It looks similar, except this grows by the ocean and pickleweed is a desert plant.

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  2. Our whole Foods has had this lately and I wasn't sure what to do with it. Thanks!

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  3. What a groundbreaking post! Wow, I'll have to look for this around San Francisco. Thanks for participating in WHB!

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  4. Thanks Kalyn - it would be really interesting to find out more about that pickleweed.

    Thanks Jo - it will be interesting to see your thoughts on it!

    Thanks Anna - I hope you find some!

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  5. Hi! That pickleweed that grows near the Great Salt Lake is Salicornia, the same halophytic plant that grows near the ocean. We have the same plant on the Oregon coast. I like to munch on it raw when I'm at the beach! :)

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  6. Samphire has been on my list too... Along with ferns and yambeans which I can't for the life of me manage to source at the moment! (just when I have a craving for them..)

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  7. I love samphire, I've been picking it and enjoying it for years. Your pictures are gorgeous; like many of the posts these week, they are making me impatient for summer!

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  8. Thanks for featuring it - it's been a holy grain ingredient for me too, and now having just moved to Amsterdam, I've seen it at my local shops and wandered what to do with it. A nice side dish idea. I'm thinking to try it in salads, like potato salad, or where you would usually use green beans?

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  9. You always have some of the most interesting produce. Sounds like a good side dish!

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  10. Thanks for the info Heather!

    Hi Y - It always seems to be the case that when you crave something you just can't find it. Hopefully they will appear soon.

    Thanks Laurie - that is great that you can just pick samphire. I'll be very happy when summer ends so I hope that happens quickly.

    Hi Julia - the only thing you need to watch is its saltiness and adjust any seasonings in dressings if used in salads to accommodate it.

    Thanks Mike!

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  11. What gorgeous photos! I've never heard of samphire . . . Kalyn, I'm curious where in California you've seen it; I'd love to find some. I wonder how it would be tossed with brown butter and some chopped hazlenuts and tossed with spaghetti?

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  12. Although never sold in markets, this plant can be found growing wild in most greek beaches. I remember my grandmother pointing it to me when I was a child and from then on I always looked for it and ate it raw - what a joy!

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  13. Thanks Lia - hope you find some, your dish sounds delish!

    Lovely memories Anon!

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  14. In Turkey, where I am from, we boil it until tender, pull out the "spine" so you're left with the meat so to say and we either mix it with garlic yogurt or olive oil and garlic. It's an awesome meze.

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  15. Hi Melis - thank you for sharing your cooking method, if I find some more samphire I'll have to try it!

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  16. Salicornia, which I've always know as pickleweed or sea beans, is a fairly common salt marsh species that you'll find at or just above extreme high tide level. In North America, you find it in salt marshes on both coasts, and it's a very tasty munch as you walk along. Never seen it for sale, though!

    The one in Utah is probably Sarcocornia, a related genus. And yes, they're both salt-tolerant, which is why you'd find them in both the GSL and at the oceanside.

    You can harvest it wild in the salt marshes, but a) know what the history of the land and water is (some reconstructed marshes are actually landfills) and b) be careful about wildlife. At least in the San Francisco area, our marshes are a tiny fragile fraction of what they once were, and although pickleweed itself is plentiful, it's easy to disturb the habitat if you're not careful. Endangered California clapper rails are nesting right now in the salt marshes, and their hard-to-see nests are all too easily stepped on when reaching for that big juicy clump of pickleweed!

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  17. Thank you Elizabeth - that was most informative and very helpful!

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