Samphire (Salicornia europaea) is a type of salt marsh grass native throughout Europe, North America, and South Asia. For centuries, its juicy stalks have been sought out for their digestive soothing properties and high nutritional value.
Doesn't sound familiar? You may know samphire as glasswort, seagrass, or pickleweed. In Turkish, this tasty plant is known as 'Deniz börülcesi' (den-EEZ' bore-UHL'-jay-see).
Turkish cooks and diners alike await the arrival of fresh samphire each year. Samphire is best from May through October when it is plump and tender.
In Turkey, samphire is steamed and eaten as a 'meze,' or starter, and served most often as a prelude to fish and seafood meals.
Samphire is known in much of the world as "poor man's asparagus." Once it's steamed and removed from its hard inner stalks, the taste, color, and texture of the cooked flesh actually resemble asparagus.
Samphire is a wellness food. It's low in calories, rich in trace minerals that are important for good health and it contains no saturated fat or cholesterol. Like many other Turkish regional dishes and 'meze,' this starter is good for vegetarians and vegans, too.
If you can pick or get fresh samphire in your area, try this easy recipe with only a few ingredients and treat your family, guests or just yourself with something different, healthy and delicious.
- 1 large bunch fresh samphire (about 2.5 pounds/ 1 kilogram)
- 1 large saucepan water for boiling
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- lemon wedges for garnish
Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Fresh samphire is naturally very salty, so make sure you don't add any salt to the water.
Once your pot is boiling, add the samphire, stalks and all. Let it boil for 10 to 15 minutes.
When the flesh turns bright green and seems tender, strain out the cooked samphire and plunge it into cold water to prevent it from overcooking. Drain off all the water. You can also gently spin it a few times in a salad spinner.
Once the cooked samphire is cool enough to handle, you should be able to pull the flesh off each hard stalk easily. It should come off in long, hollow tubes. Discard the stalks as you go along.
Place the cooked samphire in a large bowl. Using your fingers, gently toss the samphire together with the olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice. Serve immediately garnished with lemon wedges for squeezing.
This salad is delicious when served fresh, but like most Turkish vegetable dishes prepared with olive oil, your samphire will also store well for a few hours or even days in the fridge as the oil helps to keep it fresh.