Samphire is a name given to a number of very different, edible plants, that happen to grow in coastal areas.
Samphire is also the name of a short story by Patrick O'Brian
Samphire Batts was the original name of Port Clarence.
Originally "sampiere", a corruption of the French "Saint Pierre" (Saint Peter
), Samphire was named for the patron saint of fishermen because all the original plants with its name grow in rocky salt-sprayed regions along the sea coast of northern Europe or in its coastal marsh areas.
All the plants bearing the name are annuals that begin growing in late autumn and vegetate throughout the winter until the first warm weather arrives. Then the first stems and internodes form and by mid-spring the plant measures 6 to 8 cm.
Marsh samphire ashes were used to make soap and glass
(hence its other old English name, "glasswort.") In the 14th century glassmakers located their workshops near regions where this plant grew, since it was so closely linked to their trade.
Samphires of all kinds have long been eaten in England. The leaves were gathered early in the year and pickled or eaten in salads with oil and vinegar. It is even mentioned by Shakespeare in King Lear:
- Half-way down Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!
This refers to the dangers involved in collecting Rock samphire on sea cliffs.