Samphire, Rock Samphire, Sea Fennel Seeds (Crithmum maritimum)
Price for a package of 10 seeds.
Other Common Names: Samphire, sea samphire, sea fennel, rock fennel, crest marine, hinojomarino (Spanish), fenouil de mer (French), Meerfenchel (German), søfennikel (Danish), sanktpeterskjerm (Norwegian), saltmärke (Swedish). Rock samphire can be found around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and along the Atlantic coast from the Canary Islands to northern France. The plant grows also along the west and south coast of Britain and Ireland. In recent years the species has spread and can now be found in the Netherlands, Belgium and even as far north as Norway.
Its preferred habitat is rock crevices, cliffs, rocky shores and sometimes along shingle beaches. It grows best in sandy, well-drained soil. The plant does not tolerate shade and grows best in full sun. Rock samphire is the only species in the Genus Crithmum and belongs to the carrot or parsley family (Apiaceae). It is a perennial, succulent plant that reaches 10-30 cm in height.
The plant is smooth and richly branched with a stalk that is hard and woody at the base. The leaves are 2-3 times pinnate with linear to oblong, fleshy lobes. The hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) flowers are greenish-yellow. The plant is in flower from July to August. It is pollinated by insects and it is self-fertile. The seeds are 3-5 mm long, ovoid or oblong, yellowish to purple and with ribs. The seeds ripen from August to October.
Plant Parts Used: The above-ground parts of the plant are used as food and herbal medicine. In spring, the young leaves and flowers can be collected from plants in good growth and used in salads or as vegetables.
Health Benefits and Medicinal Applications of Rock Samphire
Active Ingredients and Substances: The plant contains vitamin C (ascorbic acid and dehydroascorbic acid), polyacetylenes (including falcarinol and falcarindiol), flavonoids (diosmin), furanocoumarins, pectin and the minerals zinc, iron, magnesium, iodine, and sulfates. In addition, the essential oil extracted from the plant contains the substances geranyl acetate, dillapiole, sabin, limonene, thymol methyl ether and gamma terpinene.
Herbal Medicine Uses
Rock samphire is rarely used in today’s herbal medicine but some herbalists still use it for medicinal purposes and recommend it for a variety of ailments.
The herb has diuretic properties and it is regarded as an appetite stimulant. Also, a strong extract made from the plant has been used traditionally as an herbal remedy for intestinal worms.
Due to the plant’s high levels of vitamin C, it was once in much demand as a treatment for scurvy.
Crithmum is a genus of flowering plant with the sole species Crithmum maritimum, known as samphire, rock samphire, or sea fennel. Rock samphire is an edible wild plant. It is found on southern and western coasts of Britain and Ireland, on Mediterranean and western coasts of Europe including the Canary Islands, North Africa, and the Black Sea. "Samphire" is a name also used for several other unrelated species of coastal plant.
History, trade, and cultivation
In the 17th century, Shakespeare referred to the dangerous practice of collecting rock samphire from cliffs. "Half-way down, Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!" In the 19th century, samphire was being shipped in casks of seawater from the Isle of Wight to market in London at the end of May each year. Rock samphire used to be cried in London streets as "Crest Marine".
In England, rock samphire was cultivated in gardens, where it grows readily in a light, rich soil. Obtaining seed commercially is now difficult, and in the United Kingdom, the removal of wild plants is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The reclaimed piece of land adjoining Dover, called Samphire Hoe, is named after rock samphire. The land was created from spoil from the Channel Tunnel, and rock samphire used to be harvested from the neighboring cliffs.
Rock samphire has fleshy, divided aromatic leaves that Culpeper described as having a "pleasant, hot and spicy taste"The stems, leaves, and seed pods may be pickled in hot, salted, spiced vinegar, or the leaves used fresh in salads.
Richard Mabey gives several recipes for samphire, although it is possible that at least one of these may refer to marsh samphire or glasswort (Salicornia europaea), a very common confusion.