Food on Fridays: Sea of greens

Today on Food on Fridays I want to talk about a type of green vegetable that I see on offer around here occasionally in the periodic outdoor markets that sell fish.

If you’re wondering why I’m not providing a German name for this food, it’s because I’m not certain for the general word for it in German. There’s rarely a sign for it, just a pile of it sitting in among the fish on display, although one time Chris and I did see a sign that said it was Salicornia.  But I always order the way I hear other people order it: “I’d like like 100 grams of the green stuff there, please. ”

Clearly, other people here don’t know the proper name for it, either.

Looking on the Internet today, I think that what I’ve been buying is called Samphire in English, or at least that’s one of the names used for it in England, although the entry for Salicornia in Wikipedia indicates that not all Salicornia is Samphire, or vice versa, or something. Whatever it is called, here’s a look at the most recent batch I got:

Samphire, aka sea asparagus

Salicornia, aka Samphire, aka sea asparagus

The Wikipedia article says that this plant grows in salt marshes and is only able to picked during lowtide. By default it is very, very, very salty, so it makes sense that it spends a great deal of its lifetime swamped by salt water.

However, sautéed in a pan with some olive oil and garlic, it isn’t bad, and can be quite tasty. I just need to remember to soak it for a very long time to get rid of some of the saltiness before cooking (I didn’t do that one time, and wow, was that salty).

Anyway, although I’d never seen anything like this before, and to my knowledge never eaten anything like this before, it turns out that in East Anglia they have been harvesting this stuff for generations. Here’s a clip from 1981 of an old-timer explaining his family’s harvesting tradition.  You’ll see him tramping through the mud to get to the plants, and then explaining how to cook it.

Now, according to some sort of tourist publication from East Anglia, the alternate name for this vegetable is “The Mermaid’s Kiss”. Unfortunately, the old guy in the video doesn’t mention that name, and there’s no explanation on the site for how exactly that name came to be, either.

"The Mermaid's Kiss"

“The Mermaid’s Kiss”

I have to say, it doesn’t look much like a mermaid’s kiss to me. I’ve not been able to find an explanation for that name online, not even in this other blogger’s bilingual post about everything else to do with Samphire.

Ah well. Given time, I’m sure I can invent a legend to go with that name. In the meantime, I can at least offer a selection of songs to go with this post:

From The Little Mermaid:

From the Broadway musical Big Fish:

  • song: Be the Hero – the lyrics include a section where the singer talks about how he met a mermaid and kissed her

Beatles song with a lyric that inspired the title of this post:




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