Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum)

 I meant to post this a week ago!
Rock Samphire/Sea Fennel  grows abundantly all over the rocky coast line of Minorca. I'm not sure if the locals eat it or not, but I know that it's very popular on the nearby island of Mallorca.

Getting ready to flower

I first came across Rock Samphire about 16 years ago in a restaurant  overlooking the sea in Marchè, Italy.
It was pickled and served on the side of a delicious fresh fish dish. There was only a small quantity, but I remember it combined so well with the fish. My husband is from Marchè and explained that he grew up eating it (usually with fish or served in bread with a grilled sausage). It Italian it's name is Critmo, but in Marchè it's local name is "Spaccasassi or paccasassi" which means "stone breaker". It's now protected  in this area as it's become quite rare.

 Rock Samphire is a member of the Umbelliferae family of plants which includes fennel and carrots.
In fact, I tried a small raw leaf last year on the Greek island of Cephalonia ( where it also grows profusely) and recognised a strong  carrot-like aftertaste.

It was popular in England in the past , especially in Cornwall and Wales  and sold on the streets of London as "Crest Marine". It fell out of use in the 19th century due to over harvesting. It seems to have made a come-back recently and is served in trendy restaurants and can be bought quite easily.
When in the UK last year my Mum served it boiled with butter.
 I gathered some in Minorca, boiled it and served it with oil and lemon. My husband scoffed it, but the rest of the party hated it. The taste was very strong and clashed with the lemon. It needs to be harvested earlier (May) and is best pickled (in my opinion).

Here is the traditional recipe for rock samphire from Sirolo, Marchè.
Unfortunately I can't make it but if you live in a rocky coastal area with rock samphire and it isn't protected why not try it? Remember a small amount goes a long way...Serve with fish or in a sausage sandwich/roll.

Pickled Rock Samphire (Paccasassi)
Choose young, fresh leaves.
Wash and dry the leaves.
Place in pan and cover with 50% white wine and 50% vineger. Boil for 30 mins.
Drain and dry the leaves on a clean tea towel.
Place in clean, sterilised jars, press down and cover with olive oil.
Wait for 20 days to consume.
It will keep over winter.


  1. molto interessante questo post. Siccome conosci delle ricette con le erbe delle Marche volevo chiederti se sai come cucinano l'atreplice marino (Atriplex halimus). Mi hanno detto che lì in diversi ristoranti lo servono ed è buonissimo, ma non so la ricetta.

    1. Grazie, mi dispiace ma non lo conosco! Mio marito non c'è....quando torna forsè mi può dire qualcosa?

  2. This looks yummy. I don't know if we have this same plant on the east coast of the US, but we do have salornica. I can not tell in the pictures, but is this plant mildly fuzzy, or is it smooth?

  3. Hi, sorry my pics aren't brilliant (will get a new lens one day). Rock Samphire is actually very smooth - http://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Flowers/S/Samphire%28Rock%29/Samphire%28Rock%29.htm (sorry don't know how to make it link here) for some fantastic photos.

  4. Interesting - especially as I am preparing a post including this plant - hope you don't mind if I link to this, especially for the recipe.

    1. Hi, not at all, thanks for asking :) If you are lucky enough to gather and pickle it remember to open all the windows.....boiling vinegar is not the best household air freshener!!


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