Ingredient of the week: Samphire
Samphire is a vibrantly green, leafy vegetable grown near the sea. There are two types, marsh and rock. Marsh is more readily available and is far more pleasant to eat. Rock is generally found in the Mediterranean and has a rather unpleasant smell and taste. The type I am referring to in this post is marsh. Samphire is at its best in the summer, but I’ve recently received some in my Fishbox which has inspired me to write about it as my ingredient of the week.
I think samphire looks like a cross between a really thin asparagus spear and a piece of tenderstem broccoli. It has a very crisp texture when you bite it and a salty taste. I’ve only very recently discovered and started eating it, but I’ve been aware of it for a while thanks to seeing lots of chefs cook with it on TV programmes. It is the kind of food you either love or hate, a bit like olives or marmite, as it has such a strong and distinctive taste. Fortunately I love it.
Why is it good for me?
One of the reasons samphire tastes so salty is that it contains a high amount of sodium. Sodium is needed for producing muscle contractions as it assists with sending messages from the brain through the nerves to the muscles, telling them to move. A diet high in sodium is potentially bad for your health, sodium is basically salt, and so we should limit adding extra salt to our diet, but in its natural form it still has health giving benefits. Samphire also contains potassium, which works with sodium to regulate hydration and water retention in the body. They are both needed by the kidneys to control hormones and keep the body functioning in a safe, non-toxic environment. The kidneys function to remove toxins from the body and excrete them via urine out of it.
Other vitamins and minerals samphire contain include vitamin C, iron and calcium. These all work to keep the body healthy by fighting off infection, reducing inflammation, producing red blood cells and building healthy strong bones, skin, hair and teeth. There are also several plant compounds found in samphire that help vitamin C with its job of strengthening the immune system as they contain several antioxidant qualities, which help to prevent infection and disease.
How do I prepare it?
Samphire needs very little preparation. Just a quick rinse if necessary, but I haven’t had to do this with any I’ve used. Simply remove from the packaging and you are good to go.
How do I cook it?
Samphire can be eaten raw, but this emphasises its salty taste. Its best to cook it, but only for a really short time. It can be steamed, roasted or fried.
As it is grown near the sea, it is most commonly paired with fish or seafood. I’ve not cooked with it much yet, but a couple of fish recipes I’ve made that include samphire are this miso fish with cabbage and samphire stir-fry or this prosciutto wrapped sea trout with samphire lentil salad. A couple of recipes that you could add samphire to include this roast salmon and asparagus, right at the end of cooking or replace the broccoli for it in this smoked mackerel and beetroot salad.
If fish isn’t your thing but you still want to try it, then give what is possibly my favourite recipe so far a try, Wensleydale cheese with roast carrot and samphire salad. I really enjoyed the way the samphire went a little crispy round the edges when roasted and would definitely recommend this cooking method of it to anyone.
As yet my recipe selection for samphire is limited, but I will be sure to share more when I come up with them. If you have any you would recommend then, please share them in the comments below.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.