Rock Samphire

This genus consists of a single species that grows wild on coastal cliffs, rocks and shores. Crithmum is from the Greek krithe, "barley", and refers to the ribbed, ovate seeds. The common name "samphire" is derived from the French sampière, a contraction of herbe de Saint Pierre (St. Peter having been a fisherman). Though nown also as sea fennel, it bears little resemblance to true fennel (See, Foeniculum vulgare, fennel), other than having flowers arranged in umbels. Crithmum maritimum has been gathered from coastal areas for pickling and salads since time immemorial. John Evelyn in Acetaria (1699) remarked on "its excellent Vertues and effects against the Spleen, Cleansing the Passages, sharpning Appetite, etc. so far preferrable to most of our hotter Herbs". This succulent coastal plant contains high levels of vitamin C. It has a powerful, salty falvor, described by Tom Stobart in Herbs, Spices and Flavourings (1970) as like "a mixture of celery and kerosene". C. maritimum (rock samphire) is sometimes confused with Salicornia species (marsh samphire), as both are commonly referred to as "samphire".

Fleshy, spreading perennial with branched, ridged stems and glaucous leaves with rounded, linear-lanceolate segments. Tiny, yellow-green flowers are produced in umbels in summer.

Common Name:
Rock Samphire
Other Names:
Samphire, sea fennel
Botanical Name:
Crithmum maritimum
Native Location:
Black Sea, Mediterranean, English Channel, and Atlantic coasts of Europe.
Well-drained to dry soil in sun. Needs a warm, sheltered position inland and protection in cold winters.
By seed sown when ripe; by division in spring. Seeds lose viability rapidly.
Whole plants are gathered in late spring and used fresh for infusions. Leaves and flowers are picked fresh for use as a vegetable.
15-45cm (6-18in)
15-45cm (6-18in)
Parts Used:
Whole plant, leaves, flowers.
A strongly aromatic, salty herb that has diuretic effects, cleanses toxins, and improves digestion. It has a reputation for encouraging weight loss.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for obesity, kidney complaints and sluggishness.
Culinary Uses:
Leaves are eaten in salads, cooked in butter, or pickled in vinegar and used in similar ways to capers. Flowers are also eaten in salads.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited Pg 183