Lisa’s Letters Home: Discovering Samphire

Lisa’s Letters Home: Discovering Samphire

It’s greens week here at SPC. I love green things. Give me kale (I’m all over that baked kale stuff, but don’t try to tell me they’re “chips”), spinach, chard, avocado, asparagus, broccoli, beans, any variety of lettuce and the like. My kids, not so much.

They will diligently, with surgical precision, extract anything green from their food. Basil in pasta sauce is eyed with suspicion, with wrinkled noses and a chorus of “What’s THAT?”

“It’s basil.”

“I don’t like bashmill.”

“You haven’t even tried it.”

“I don’t like it. I hate it. I hate bashmill.” [flings basil across the table in disgust]

Needless to say, I haven’t tried pesto on them yet.


So, this will not be a post about the greens my children love because they don’t. At all. This will be about a really lovely green vegetable I discovered from one of the many cooking programmes I watch here in England. I learned about this green while watching Rick Stein, a seafood chef who owns most of culinary Padstow in Cornwall. (“Padstein”, it’s been dubbed.) He prepared something called samphire, which sounds like a faux gem, but it’s a delicious seaside green.

It looks like it should taste like seaweed, but it’s more like salty asparagus. You steam or stir fry it for about 2-3 minutes, dress it in a little oil and seasoning (maybe with a squeeze of lemon) and usually serve it alongside fish. Extremely simple and sometimes found on the shelves of major supermarkets.

If you happen to live near a coastline, samphire can be found free of charge from around June to September. I’ve never actually been foraging because I’m paranoid that I’ll pick up something that looks very much like an edible thing, but turns out to be some sort of deadly fungi. Samphire is something the fishmonger would chuck in with your package of cod, probably treated like the ubiquitous sprig of parsley on dinner plates: thrown away after brief inspection. Now it’s one of those uber trendy side veggies that is a bit tricky to find, but if you can get it, give it a go.

You can serve it simply alongside fish, tossed with pasta, or added to omelettes and frittatas. It doesn’t have a particularly strong flavour, but it has a fantastic crunch and freshness. 100 grams of the stuff (about two servings) is a mere 100 calories.

Since it’s the done thing to big up the nutritional prowess of veggies, I’ll mention that it’s rich in iodine and vitamins A, C, B2, B15, amino acids, and minerals, such as iron, calcium and magnesium phosphorus, calcium, silica, zinc, manganese and vitamin D. (Source: Impressive, eh?

I showed a package of it to my kids, which was met with cries of horror and comparisons to alien creatures. These are the same people who have been known to lick shopping trolleys and chew on dog toys. Hardly in a position to get all uppity, if you ask me. We will work on the green stuff (avocado, broccoli, and peas are currently acceptable), but in the meantime, all the more for me.

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  1. Hugh
    May 17, 14:35 Reply

    Apparently it takes an average of 6 attempts to get a child to like a new food. Keep at it!

  2. Julie Crooks
    May 17, 15:34 Reply

    1st, 6th or 17th attempt gets me – “Mum, why do you keep giving me this disgusting stuff – you know I hate it!!” Not with samphire though. or peas.

  3. Rosemary
    May 17, 17:37 Reply

    Too bad about your kids. Mine has started to complain a bit now too. I think it might drive me crazy. I’ll keep an eye out for samphire, though. It looks quite tasty.

  4. Lisa Durbin
    May 18, 03:56 Reply

    I think it’s in their nature to be suspicious about food, but it is very frustrating, I agree.

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