From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Subfamily: Apioideae
Tribe: Pyramidoptereae
Genus: Crithmum
C. maritimum
Binomial name
Crithmum maritimum
Crithmum maritimum
Crithmum maritimum (habitat)
Crithmum maritimum - MHNT

Crithmum is a monospecific genus of flowering plant in the carrot family Apiaceae, with the sole species Crithmum maritimum, known as rock samphire,[1][2] sea fennel[1] or samphire.[1] The name "samphire" is also used for several other unrelated succulent halophyte species of coastal plant.

Crithmum is an edible wild plant. It is found on coastlines throughout much of Europe (north to the British Isles), Macaronesia, parts of West Asia and North Africa in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts.

History, trade and cultivation[edit]

In the 17th century, Shakespeare in King Lear referred to the dangerous practice of collecting rock samphire from cliffs. "Half-way down, Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!"[3] In the 19th century, samphire was being shipped in casks of seawater from the Isle of Wight to market in London at the end of May each year.[4] Rock samphire used to be cried in London streets as "Crest Marine".[5]

In England, rock samphire is cultivated in gardens,[6][5] where it grows readily in a light, rich soil. In the United Kingdom the uprooting of wild plants is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.[7] The reclaimed piece of land adjoining Dover, called Samphire Hoe, is named after rock samphire. The land was created from spoil from the Channel Tunnel, and rock samphire used to be harvested from the neighbouring cliffs.[citation needed]

Culinary use[edit]

Rock samphire or sea fennel has fleshy, divided aromatic leaves that Culpeper described as having a "pleasant, hot and spicy taste"[8]

The stems, leaves and seed pods may be pickled in hot, salted, spiced vinegar, or the leaves used fresh in salads. Dried and ground sea fennel can also be used as a salt substitute.

Sea fennel pickle in olive oil or vinegar is a traditional food of Italy (Marche region), Croatia (Dalmatia), Greece, and Montenegro (Bay of Kotor). It is known as Paccasassi del Conero and used as an antipasto, to accompany fish and meat dishes and to garnish pizza and sandwiches.

Richard Mabey gives several recipes for rock samphire,[9] although it is possible that at least one of these may refer to marsh samphire or glasswort (Salicornia europaea), a very common confusion.


Sea fennel has nutritional value,[10] and is rich in antioxidants.[11]


  1. ^ a b c "Crithmum maritimum". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  2. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  3. ^ Shakespeare, William (1623). The Tragedy of King Lear. London. Act IV, scene VI, lines 14b-15
  4. ^ Grigson, Geoffrey (1958). The Englishman's Flora. London: The Readers' Union, Phoenix House.
  5. ^ a b Phillips, Roger (1983). Wild Food. Pan. ISBN 0-330-28069-4.
  6. ^ "Crithmum maritimum". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  7. ^ "Protection of wild plants". Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 1981. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  8. ^ Culpeper, Nicholas (1653). The Complete Herbal. London.
  9. ^ Mabey, Richard (1975). Food For Free. Fontana. ISBN 0-00-613470-X.
  10. ^ Nutritional and antioxidant properties of wild edible plants and their use as potential ingredients in the modern diet Ana Romojaro et al. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Dec. via Pubmed, accessed 16 October 2022
  11. ^ Antioxidant activity and phenol content of Crithmum maritimum L. leaves Laetitia Meot-Duros et al. Plant Physiol Biochem. 2009 Jan. via Pubmed, accessed 16 October 2022

External links[edit]