PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum)

Also known as Sea Fennel, this is an edible oddity from the sea cliffs of Britain and other coastal bluffs throughout Europe and parts of north Africa. There are several species of Samphire which have different flavor profiles and all of them share a distinctive, strong saltiness. It has been harvested as food for many centuries. Shakespeare mentioned the precariousness of gathering it from cliffs in King Lear. Sailors used to take it on long voyages to ward against scurvy as it is high in vitamin C. Nicholas Culpepper, the esteemed 17th century herbalist, physician, and astrologer (it all ran together back then) seemed to enjoy Rock Samphire as having a “pleasant, hot and spicy taste”.

Culpepper liked it hot & spicy, others describe it as a carrot/parsley/fennel combo, and still others say it tastes like creosote. Us Calendulans think it’s like carrot/fennel/lime. Its slender succulent leaves are crunchy and juicy and above all, distinctly salty. It makes excellent pickles, either lacto-fermented or vinegared. A few fresh leaves mixed into a salad add new dimensions of flavor and texture.

Rock Samphire likes sun and well draining soil. It forms a mound just a few inches high of very slender, succulent leaves which branch like antlers. It flowers with white to greenish-yellow umbels in summer. All parts of the plant can be eaten. It is mostly evergreen unless we have an extraordinary cold snap.