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Norfolk Samphire (Salicornia europaea)

Samphire is a name given to a number of succulent halophytes that tend to be associated with water bodies.


Originally "sampiere", a corruption of the French "Saint Pierre" (Saint Peter),[4] samphire was named after the patron saint of fishermen because all of the original plants with its name grow in rocky salt-sprayed regions along the sea coast of northern Europe or in its coastal marsh areas. It is sometimes called sea asparagus or sea pickle. In Norfolk it is commonly called sampha [sam-fa]. In North Wales, especially along the River Dee's marshes, it has always been known as sampkin.

During the construction of the Channel Tunnel, the nature reserve of Eurotunnel was named "Samphire Hoe".[2]


Fresh samphire from the Loughor estuary for sale at Swansea Market

Marsh samphire ashes were used to make soap and glass (hence its other old English name, "glasswort").[4] In the 14th century glassmakers located their workshops near regions where this plant grew, since it was so closely linked to their trade. Many samphires are edible. In England the leaves were gathered early in the year and pickled or eaten in salads with oil and vinegar. It is mentioned by Shakespeare in King Lear:

Half-way down Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!

— Act IV, Scene VI

This refers to the dangers involved in collecting rock samphire on sea cliffs.

Marsh samphire (Salicornia bigelovii) was investigated as a potential biodiesel source that can be grown in coastal areas where conventional crops cannot be grown.[5]

Aboriginal Australians have long used samphire as bush tucker, due to its abundance, flavour and nutritional value. It is high in Vitamin A and a good source of calcium and iron. Other Australians have recently discovered the potential of the species as a food plant and it has begun to appear on restaurant menus across the country.[6][7]


  1. ^ "Rock Samphire – Identification, Edibility, Distribution". Galloway Wild Foods. 1 July 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b "What's in a name?". Samphire Hoe. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  3. ^ "Marsh Samphire – Identification, Edibility, Distribution". Galloway Wild Foods. 17 July 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Samphire; A Mermaid's Kiss". Our Norfolk. 6 July 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  5. ^ Clark, Arthur (November–December 1994). "Samphire: From Sea to Shining Seed" (PDF). Saudi Aramco World. Saudi Aramco. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 26, 2011. Retrieved 2008-11-17.
  6. ^ "Samphire". Native tastes of Australia. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  7. ^ "Native blackseed samphire". Slow Food in Australia. Retrieved 2018-11-21.

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