Grow your own Samphire

Once described as a poor man’s asparagus it’s now a fashionable accompaniment to many a trendy meal. That said it’s delicious too. Salty and crisp.

I’m talking about Marsh Samphire (Salicornia europaea). It’s an annual that grows in estuaries, marshes and other sea soaked wetland areas. You might know it as glasswort, sea asparagus, sea pickle, sampha or sampkin. Whatever you call it I’d never tried it. Never at least until I saw it for sale in a supermarket. I don’t recall ever seeing it in any of the beaches or estuaries I’d visited. Perhaps I wasn’t looking.

Gosh that stuff is expensive. Anything from £1.73 per 100grams to way over £2.50 per 100grams. So I bought a small handful of the succulent strange looking stems to find out what all the fuss is about.

Well I liked it.

Rather than eat it all I wondered if I could grow the remainder of it. So I planted it. I couldn’t find any instructions on the web on how to plant Samphire from cuttings. So I set up my own experiment…

Ready to pot up Samphire cuttings.

Ready to pot up Samphire cuttings.

Samphire cuttings all potted up and ready to be moved to the window.

Samphire cuttings all potted up carefully around the edge of the pots and ready for the propagator lid to be put on and then to be moved to the window.

Samphire cuttings five weeks later. Big differences in success rate!

Samphire cuttings five weeks later. Big differences in success rate!

Are you wondering about what the difference is between the left and right pots?

About half way through potting up the cuttings I remembered that sometimes with cuttings you take the stem you are potting up back to just under a node. I hadn’t been doing that before (on the left-hand cuttings) so I decided to with the rest (the right half) – using a clean knife to cut the stem just under a node.

I didn’t really know if either technique was going to be successful, or indeed if any would survive. After all I’d purchased these from a supermarket. They had been picked and transported many days previously (all cutting technique advice says to get them into the ground as soon as you can) and it was a few days later that I took them out of my refrigerator and planted them.

I’ve since moved the successful cuttings to the polytunnel where they are getting much more light. The nice dark green colour has returned to the stems.

I am continuing to water with salted water. About one teaspoon of sea salt mixed to one pint of water whenever they look like they need it.

When I pot them up I’ll use a sandier mix (this one had some sand mixed in but I think they could do with more) and keep them separate from the rest of my plants – the others won’t appreciate the salty water.

Will they grow enough to produce seeds or will I have to find a way to keep them growing through the winter? I don’t know. It’s been fun. Though if they fail I might just ask for samphire seeds for Christmas.

Yes it’s August and I’ve just mentioned Christmas …