Written by Phil Brown, Badger Bushcraft Blog Tuesday, 02 August 2011 13:31
In this Badger Bushcraft Blog article we revisit the Kent salt marshes to forage for the gastronomic delight that is Marsh Samphire (Salicornia spp.) also known as Glasswort and show you how to pickle this succulent and delicious plant.
Back in May 2011 we featured a blog article in the Wild Foods section entitled “Forage For Wild Foods On The Salt Marshes Of Kent” where Ben, Inca and I foraged the Kent salt marshes and estuaries for both Samphire and Sea Purslane (Halimione portulacoides). On a rare afternoon off we decided to sally forth in the Land Rover and revisited our usual Samphire hunting grounds with the goal of pickling it in several ways.
What you will need to pickle Marsh Samphire.
- A large bunch of fresh Samphire
- A large pan
- A Kilner style jar
- A glass heat resistant bowl
- Dried or fresh bay leaves
- Ground or whole cloves
- Ground or fresh ginger
- Cinnamon either ground or sticks
- Brown sugar
- Cider vinegar
- Pickling spice
- Black peppercorns
Pickling is a wonderful way to preserve and create complex flavours in some of the wild foods we encounter here in the British Isles, and it is also great fun that can involve children who always seem to enjoy discovering new ways to prepare and enjoy all sorts of wild fare.
We decided to explore two methods of pickling. One batch of the freshly picked Samphire was to be preserved in heavily spiced pickling vinegar and the other in lightly spiced pickling vinegar with onion.
Our day out at the salt marsh was blessed with a beautifully warm and sun shiny weather and by the time we had driven the 17 or so miles from our base in mid-Kent Inca “The Bushcraft Dog”, our Labrador Retriever, had smelt the salty air and was beside herself with excitement to jump into the cool water and have a swim.
The spray from her shaking herself dry proved to be a welcome cooling shower for Ben and I also!
As the tide was nearing its highest point we had to wander a little further down stream than normal to several of the slow bends that feature some exceptionally shallow areas with a very firm shoreline. Foraging in such areas can present several hazards including deep and dangerous soft mud so great care should be taken! Since an incident I observed in my early teens whilst trout fishing in Yorkshire I seldom go anywhere near such areas on my own.
We collected the very abundant and leggy Samphire by carefully cutting the plant some 25mm above the woody “trunk” that protrudes from the mud, this means we are not damaging the root system that can regenerate and also helps prevent tidal erosion of the shoreline. An added bonus is that we do not have to trim the Samphire when we get back to base and thus saves a lot of fiddly and abortive time.
Once back to Badger HQ the Samphire was carefully sorted through to ensure that no rouge or potentially dangerous species were also included in our harvesting. This, I personally believe, should always be done when collecting wild foods.
After sorting, incidentally there were no rouge species in what we had carefully collected, we washed the Samphire in cool clean water several times and then dried the succulent green stalks in a tea towel.
We then prepared our pickling solutions, as featured in our other Badger Bushcraft Blog article “How to Make Ash Key Pickle”.
We added half of the Samphire to the heavily spiced vinegar and simmered it for around three minutes before decanting into a sterilised Kilner jar.
The lightly spiced vinegar was removed from the heat and allowed to cool before we added the remaining Samphire.
This will now be stored in a cool dark cupboard for several weeks before we eat it - if we can wait that long!
Please note, when identifying all plants for food “If in doubt leave it out” – never take chances with wild foods!