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— Salicornia, samphire, pickle weed, glasswort —
During your visit of the Bay of Somme, do not forget to taste this curious pickleweed… Salicornia, samphire, glasswort…
Salicornia, also called samphire, is a “wild”plant. It grows in the salted meadows covered by the sea at very high tides such as the mud flats of Somme Bay
Its main morphological characteristic: a succession of cylindrical bulges which fit one into another. The name “Cornichon marin” (“salt horn”) used to refer to its adaptation to the presence of salt. Salicornia soaks up fresh water (approximately 90%) which gives it this plump and succulent aspect. This plant is said to be halophilic which means it likes salty soil.
When to collect it?
It is collected when the plant is still young: as soon as the first internodes are formed, that is to say between the end of May and the end of September, it then measures 6 to 8cm high at the most and has a green and tender aspect.
An ancestral exploitation
The gathering of salicornia is a several-decade-long tradition: it is fully part of the activities of the “fishermen on foot”, in the same way as cultivated mussels or cockles.
It is not only used for the sole purpose of being eaten (vegetables, preserves) but also to industrial (soap, soda, glass) and therapeutic (vitamin C) ends. Somme bay accounts for 90% of the national production with 400 to 500 tons of salicornia gathered each year.
At a time of ‘nouvelle cuisine’ (new cuisine), a natural, biological and original product…
Salicornia enjoys the image of a natural, biological and original product. It is diuretic, rich in iodine, phosphorus, calcium, silica, zinc, manganese as well as in vitamins A, C and D.
Salicornia is cooked as a condiment like gherkins and preserved in vinegar (sometimes it is also called “pickleweed”). It is also used as a vegetable: the green and tender ends are used in salads or are cooked like French beans and steamed.
Let’s have a look at a few recipes
Sort the salicornias out. Then cut the hard part of the foot, plunge them into a sink and rinse them thoroughly in clear water. This operation consists in removing the sand and desalting the salicornias. Drain them and then mop them up. In a stockpot, bring water to the boil and throw the salicornia in it. Bring it to the boil again and then let them cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain them. Savour them with a small knob of butter or crème fraîche.
Expert advice: Do not salt it, it is already iodized.
From the end of May to July, you will be able to savour it fresh; you will find it at the fishmonger’s and on the menus of some restaurants
As for the rest of the year, buy a jar of Salicornia in one of the shops selling local products.