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Norfolk Samphire (Salicornia europaea)

Samphire is a name given to a number of distinct edible plants that grow in some coastal areas.

Etymology

Originally "sampiere", a corruption of the French "Saint Pierre" (Saint Peter),[2] samphire was named after the patron saint of fishermen because all of the original plants with its name grow in rocky salt-sprayed regions along the sea coast of northern Europe or in its coastal marsh areas. It is sometimes called sea asparagus or sea pickle. In Norfolk it is commonly called sampha [sam-fa]. In North Wales, especially along the River Dee's marshes, it has always been known as sampkin.

All the plants bearing the name are annuals that begin growing in late autumn and vegetate throughout the winter until the first warm weather arrives. Then the first stems and internodes form, and by mid-spring the plant measures 6 to 8 cm.

Uses

Fresh samphire from the Loughor estuary for sale at Swansea Market

Marsh samphire ashes were used to make soap and glass (hence its other old English name, "glasswort").[2] In the 14th century glassmakers located their workshops near regions where this plant grew, since it was so closely linked to their trade. Samphires of all kinds have long been eaten in England. The leaves were gathered early in the year and pickled or eaten in salads with oil and vinegar. It is mentioned by Shakespeare in King Lear:

Half-way down Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade! (Act IV, Scene VI). This refers to the dangers involved in collecting rock samphire on sea cliffs.

Marsh samphire (Salicornia bigelovii) is being investigated as a potential biodiesel source that can be grown in coastal areas where conventional crops cannot be grown.[3]

Samphire is gaining popularity in the UK, being served more often in restaurants as an accompaniment to fish dishes, and is also found more often in supermarkets.

References

  1. ^ "USDA GRIN Taxonomy". 
  2. ^ a b "Samphire; A Mermaid’s Kiss". Our Norfolk. 6 July 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  3. ^ Clark, Arthur (November–December 1994). "Samphire: From Sea to Shining Seed" (PDF). Saudi Aramco World. Saudi Aramco. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 

External links

1893 text

Samphire was formerly a favourite pickle; hence the “dangerous trade” of the samphire gatherer (“King Lear,” act iv. sc. 6) who supplied the demand. It was sold in the streets, and one of the old London cries was “I ha’ Rock Samphier, Rock Samphier!”


This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

3 Annotations

Kevin Peter  •  Link

Definition from hyperdictionary.com

SAMPHIRE
Pronunciation: 'sam`fIr


WordNet Dictionary

Definition: [n] fleshy maritime plant having fleshy stems with rudimentary scalelike leaves and small spikes of minute flowers; formerly used in making glass

Synonyms: glasswort, Salicornia europaea

See Also: genus Salicornia, herb, herbaceous plant, Salicornia



Webster's 1913 Dictionary

Definition: \Sam"phire\ (? or ?; 277), n. [F. l'herbe de Saint
Pierre. See {Saint}, and {Petrel}.] (Bot.)
(a) A fleshy, suffrutescent, umbelliferous European plant
({Crithmum maritimum}). It grows among rocks and on
cliffs along the seacoast, and is used for pickles.

Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!
--Shak.
(b) The species of glasswort ({Salicornia herbacea}); --
called in England {marsh samphire}.
(c) A seashore shrub ({Borrichia arborescens}) of the West
Indies.

Pedro.  •  Link

Rock samphire (Crithmum maritimum).

The cliff-growing rock samphire described in King Lear, in a scene near Dover, has Edgar say to Gloucester, “half way down/Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!”

A yellow-flowered perennial, growing chiefly on cliffs and rocks by the sea, and occasionally on shingle beaches. The leaves smell sulphurous when crushed (some people find the scent similar to furniture polish), but it has been used as a vegetable, chiefly in pickles. In the 19C samphire was sent from Dover and the Isle of Wight to London, in casks of brine, where wholesalers would pay up to four shillings a bushel for it.

Flora Britannica by Richard Mabey.

Bill  •  Link

SAMPHIRE, SAMPIRE. [Minshew derives it of Saint Pierre, St. Peter's Herb] a Plant which generally grows upon rocky Cliffs in the Sea; it is usually pickled and eaten for a dainty Sallet.
---An universal etymological English dictionary. N. Bailey, 1731.

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References

Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.

1660