Crithmum is a monospecific genus of flowering plant in the carrot family Apiaceae, with the sole species Crithmum maritimum, known as rock samphire, sea fennel or samphire. 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
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!" 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. Rock samphire used to be cried in London streets as "Crest Marine".
In England, rock samphire is cultivated in gardens, 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. 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.
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.
- "Crithmum maritimum". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
- BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 26 June 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
- Shakespeare, William (1623). The Tragedy of King Lear. London. Act IV, scene VI, lines 14b-15
- Grigson, Geoffrey (1958). The Englishman's Flora. London: The Readers' Union, Phoenix House.
- Phillips, Roger (1983). Wild Food. Pan. ISBN 0-330-28069-4.
- "Crithmum maritimum". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
- "Protection of wild plants". Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 1981. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
- Culpeper, Nicholas (1653). The Complete Herbal. London.
- Mabey, Richard (1975). Food For Free. Fontana. ISBN 0-00-613470-X.
- 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
- 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
- BBC Gardeners' Question Time – where there is apparently some confusion between the glasswort (marsh samphire, found in Suffolk) and the rock samphire (found in Dorset).
- Biff Vernon discusses the common confusion between marsh samphire and rock samphire, and reproduces a poem on the subject by William Logan.