Some authors seem to think of Marsh samphire as a plant of southern England – the generally reliable (and very readable) The Taste of Britain by Mason and Brown for example points that way and indeed it’s found for example in Sussex , and Dover has Samphire Hoe – but Marsh Samphire thrives around much of our extensive coastline on tidal creeks and muddy flats. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has written about coming across some on a hike in Inverness -shire to the redemption of a dull lunch; at Cockerham in Lancashire salt marsh lamb farmers gather it to complement their fabulous meat. And in North Norfolk we pair it with Stiffkey Blues in July and August when the plant is around.
Salicornia Europaea, to give Marsh Samphire its scientific name, to state the obvious is tolerant of salt, and served brings a salty tang with it. When fresh – and it is not worth bothering with unless used within at most three days of picking – it snaps crisply when bent. Washed first then sliced, in small quantities it can brighten a salad. The most enjoyable way to serve it, however, is steamed for about five minutes – try a piece after three or four - then topped with some melting unsalted butter; or simmer it for a similar time. I’ve heard it called poor-man’s asparagus, but it’s a rich country where paupers eat such stuff.