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Samphire… of the Sea!

AKA: Salicornia europaea L. Family: Amaranthacea; marsh samphire, common glasswort, glasswort, sea beans, baby asparagus, Crow's Foot Greens, Salicornia, Picklegrass, Pickleweed, sea fennel.

Propagation/Description: Samphire is a succulent salt-tolerant plants (halophytes) that tend to be associated with and native to bodies of water. Samphire can also be propagated from cuttings if rooting in water be certain to use a slightly salty water – 1 teaspoon sea salt per pint – not table salt but sea salt. The success rate is lower than that with standard vegetables so be sure to try and root more than you anticipate planting. It is typically small and feature jointed bright green stems that turn red or purple in the fall. The reduced leaves are minute and scalelike, and the bisexual flowers produce small fleshy fruits with a single seed.

Folklore/History: The name 'Samphire' comes from the French name for the plant, 'Herbe de Saint Pierre' which was named after the patron saint of fishermen “St Peter” because all of the original plants with its name grow in rocky salt-sprayed regions along the sea coast of northern Europe or in its coastal marsh lands. In the 14th century glassmakers used to locate their workshops near regions where this plant grew, since it was so closely linked to their trade. Burning the plant released the sodium more easily than from common salt. Samphire was gathered and burned in heaps and the ash fused with sand to make glass, or for better glass, the ash was leached with lime water to make a solution of caustic soda, evaporated and then added to the silica. Folklore suggests that samphire is best harvested on mid summer's day but this will be dependent upon where you forage.

Medicinal: Boasting almost no fat, this vegetable is packed with essential minerals, including Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium and Sodium. That is in addition to a healthy amount of dietary fiber and vitamins A, B, and C. Samphire and other sea vegetables contain unique compounds called fucoidans often found in sea vegetables, which can have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It is also believed to aid in digestion, boost the immune system, assist in bone health, regulate sleep, a mild diuretic. The immunomodulatory, lipid-lowering, antiproliferative, osteoprotective, and hypoglycemic render this lesser-known marsh plant significant for phytochemical studies. The efficacy of Salicornia herbacea against oxidative stress, inflammation, diabetes, asthma, hepatitis, cancer, gastroenteritis has been reported in studies.

Spiritual: I was unable to find much in the way of traditional information regarding the spiritual or magical significance of Samphire. My tendency is to go with the properties and surmise what a plant is good for spiritually. In the case of Samphire (Sam-fur) I am following my intuition and finding that it seems to be good for healing, bonding, protective, purifying, strength and adaptive. I come to this conclusion based on the history, botanical characteristics, medicinal and nutritive properties.

Summary: Most of the plants mother earth provides, have metaphysical properties that directly correlate to their beneficial properties inherently built into the very fiber of their existence. This is a plant that stubbornly grows in the crevices of rocks, in sand, fed by sea water and in turn provides healing and nutrition to our bodies, minds. Why not our spiritual walk as well!? We all use a little “kitchen magic” when preparing meals for our families. Using Samphire is just another magical ingredient to bring all these things to ourselves and the ones we love the most!


Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, 500 Herbs and Remedies of Common Ailments by Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH

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