Maritime herb growing to a height of 60 cm (2 ft). Has long, succulent, bright green leaves and clusters of small yellowish-green flowers.
Habitat & Cultivation
Samphire grows on the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts of Europe and Asia Minor. It is found on rocks and cliffs close to the sea and gathered in early summer.
Samphire contains a volatile oil, pectin, vitamins (especially vitamin C) and minerals.
History & Folklore
A much valued herb in the past, samphire fell into disfavour but is slowly becoming popular again as a vegetable, either pickled or eaten fresh. The English herbalist John Gerard described it in 1597 as "the pleasantest sauce, most familiar and best agreeing with man's body, both for the digestion of meates, breaking of stone and voiding of gravel". Samphire was a well-known preventative against scurvy and was pickled and taken on long sea journeys.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Though it is currently little used in herbal medicine, samphire is a good diuretic and it holds out potential as a treatment for obesity. Samphire has a high vitamin C and mineral content and is thought to relieve flatulence and to act as a digestive remedy. In this, the plant resembles its inland namesake, fennel.