Samphire asparagus vinaigrette tightOne of the thrills of foraging is tapping into Mother Nature’s limitless abundance. While some treasures of the earth are hard to come by (see: truffles) wild samphire is abundant here on eastern Long Island and at its peak now, in early summer.

Samphire, a.k.a seabeans, sea asparagus, salicornia, or picklewort, thrives in the marshy, sandy shores of Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton. It’s also abundant in other pebbly places around Gardiner’s Bay where there the tides flow gently. Look for a flat strip of land at water’s edge that’s flooded at high tide.

They clusters proliferate in these tidal zones. Samphire looks like tiny seguaro cacti, 8″ tall, very slender, with very light branching.  They’re a land plant, not a seaweed, so they don’t like to be drowned. The tops of the plants always clear the top of the water. 

I use scissors to gather it.  Grab a clump and cut it off near the base.  This method does require picking through when you rinse it to remove marsh grasses and other small beach weeds that might have gotten entangled.  If you’re not gathering a lot you can break the stalks off one by one, with your fingers.

(Unlike truffles, dogs aren’t particularly helpful on samphire gathering expeditions but Croce, our Chesapeake Bay Retriever, age 11, looks the part of happy participant so I couldn’t help including this photo.)

Washed samphire

Samphire marsh

Croce searchingThe slender stalks are best when blanched two or three minutes. The crisp-tender segments have a pleasing oceanic flavor.

Lightly steamed samphire is wonderful enhancement to salads and fish dishes.  Makes a great pickle too.


Samphire Asparagus vinaigrette

1 lb. asparagus
1 c. fresh samphire, washed, brown ends trimmed off
2 T. olive oil
1 t. cider vinegar
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 shallot, finely chopped (1 T.)
salt and pepper

Blanch the samphire 3 minutes, refresh in cold water, drain well, pat dry

Peel asparagus if thick. Blanch until al dente, depending on size and if peeled, 2 – 5 minutes. Refresh in cold water, drain, pat dry.

Make vinaigrette,whisk. Toss the asparagus and samphire. garnish with lemon slices.

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Written by on June 24, 2014 under ALL RECIPES, East Hampton, Foraging, Vegetables.

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