Where samphire is sold in shops or in fishmongers, it is usually advertised simply as 'samphire'. However, there are two main types of samphire to be found in the UK and the rest of Northern Europe. Both are excellent to eat either on their own or with fish or lamb or as an ingredient, but one is far easier to find than the other.
The types of samphire available in the UK are:
This is by far the most common type of samphire found in the UK and in some areas is very prevalent. It looks very much like tiny stalks of asparagus and grows around estuaries and also tidal creeks, either on muddy flats or in the sand. Because of its location it has a distinctly salty taste so if used as an ingredient, it is wise to taste before adding any salt! Perhaps the best place to collect marsh samphire in the UK is on the East Coast of Norfolk where it is excellent and very widely available.
Rock Samphire is much harder to find and grows on rocks, often at great heights, which makes collecting it very dangerous indeed. In fact Shakespeare referred to this in King Lear when he said "Half way down hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!". Whilst some say that there is little difference in taste between the two types; there are enthusiasts who swear that rock samphire has s superior flavour, although whether the difference is enough to warrant a risky climb or not is open to question!
Samphire is best picked early season which starts in June when the stalks are nice and tender. They continue like this until towards the end of August, after which they become quite 'woody' and difficult to eat, although they can still be cooked and eaten by sucking off the plant from the stem. It is best to boil them at this stage too in order to remover some of the late season bitterness/
Have a look at our recipes page for a few examples of how to cook samphire.