Foraging for samphire


When I was a kid there was nothing I liked more than going samphire collecting.

Now I’m older, I recognise the health benefits of samphire as well as the value of something that tastes divine, is totally free and is a joy to forage. The health benefits of getting out in the natural world are legion, and the vast skies and calming bird song of the salt marshes are simply diving, exhilarating and relaxing.

There are two types of samphire, rock samphire is much more difficult to find, in fact, as its name implies, it involves rock climbing and putting yourself at risk. Marsh samphire is much easier to collect, as long as you know how far the tide comes in, when it comes in and look out for the creeks (natural sea dykes) as you walk – they can be several feet deep and are sometimes hidden by long grass. But they can be fun to jump over – and who doesn’t enjoy getting muddy?

Samphire is famous around Lincolnshire and Norfolk – further inland some people haven’t even heard of it, let alone tasted it. For those of us in the know, it is also referred to as the asparagus of the sea. It does resemble asparagus a little, but it’s smaller and bushier. It’s a rich green sea vegetable that grows on the marshes between June and August. Go out too early and the samphire isn’t big enough to harvest, too late and it doesn’t taste as nice.

To collect it, you simply cut the stalk near the bottom, leaving the roots in the marshland. If you pull it up by the roots, not only will you kill the existing plant, but it’ll be heavier to carry once you have a bag full and it’ll be harder to wash.

To eat samphire, you simply suck it off the stalk. It has a salty taste, but this should come as no surprise considering where it is found. As long as you wash it thoroughly, you can eat it raw – it’s nice with a salad. Stir-frying is another option, lightly toss it in some olive oil – I would add some sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper – and you have a tasty side dish, snack or sandwich filling.

I usually boil it for a while (around 10 to 15 minutes – until it slides easily off the stalk and has a tender texture), then eat it hot with dairy-free margarine and new potatoes. Restaurants often serve it as an accompaniment. I always cook far too much and leave the rest in the fridge for sandwiches over the next few days. There is also the option of pickling it in vinegar to preserve it over the coming months. I, personally am not too keen on the vinegary taste this produces, but many people seem do like it – and it means you can enjoy samphire out of season.

Samphire contains virtually no fat. It has 100 calories per 100 grams and it’s rich in minerals. It contains no saturated fat or cholesterol – which is surprising when something tastes so good. There is a small amount of sodium – 0.8 milligrams in 100 grams – something that is also surprising given its salty taste. It is rich in vitamins A, B and C and contains folic acid – all of which is good news, but there’s more. It can help cleanse the liver, aid digestion, relive flatulence and improve people’s moods and alertness.

You can in fact buy your own samphire seeds now, for sowing between February and May, and even your own samphire plants, you will, of course, need light, sandy soil, but it reseeds itself and so will grow year on year. I haven’t tried to grow my own, so I don’t know if it tastes as good as the foraged stuff. You can sometimes find it for sale at fish mongers and farmers’ markets – but why pay for something you can go and get for free yourself?

And where I go to collect it, the marsh is surrounded by blackberry bushes – so there’s free pudding as well for the excited foragers.


Indulgent vegan lunch treat

CO-OP Sweetcorn Fritter & Pineapple Salsa sandwiches

Limited Edition – £2.50 for two.



If you’re looking for a vegan summer lunch treat and are feeling flush, these are a welcome addition to the choices out there.

The fruity hit of pineapple, the slight zing of salsa heat, the crunch of veg and pleasant taste of the red pepper bread are all reasons to indulge with this summer treat.

On the other hand, the price tag and an ingredients list that would pass for the first chapter of a novel are the downside that scream “buy some strawberries instead”.

Of course, it’s positive that High Street supermarkets are embracing veganism – but that’s probably the marketing execs getting their backsides into gear rather than any long-term romance with ethical living. Either way, it annoys the NFU, so can only be seen as a good thing. And, it’s the CO-OP the only vaguely ethical supermarket – or, at least, the least unethical supermarket, in the UK, so, their vegan output really does have to be taken seriously.

Sadly, this branch’s (Orton Centre, in Peterborough) is seriously lacking in the vegan-friendly freezer department – so one can’t have everything it seems.

Back to the sarnies – and you could have eaten both in the time it took to read the above – they smell nice, they look nice and they taste quite good. The cool salsa dominated taste-wise and the aforementioned hit of fruit is nice, but I wasn’t blown away – even spice-wise or, indeed, taste-wise in general.

They do lack a “wow” factor, and that is a bit of an issue for me. There is nothing in the vegan rule book that says we can’t enjoy utterly fantastic food. We should not expect bland or “OK” vegan options – we deserve to be bowled over with tongue orgasms every time we pay over the odds for vegan food many think we should be “grateful to have”.

Given this, an indulgent price should be reflected in the taste of the product – so, CO-OP, close but no cigar.


The great plant-based ‘milk’ debate


The rise and rise of plant-based dairy alternatives seems to be getting the farming community hot under the collar.

I guess it proves those who say “going vegan won’t change anything” wrong.

In June, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that vegan alternatives cannot use words like milk in product descriptions.

The case was brought by the German Competition Authority against TofuTown (sounds like my kind of place).

The EU Court ruled plant-based alternatives cannot be described using the terms ‘milk’, ‘cream’, ‘butter’, ‘cheese’ or ‘yoghurt’, as these are reserved by EU law for animal products. Finally, a reason for supporting Brexit (although there’s plenty of other reasons for being a ‘remoaner’).

Truth is, the dairy industry is panicking about the fact it’s losing sales to healthier, more ethical (not hard) to vegan-friendly alternatives. (—the-future ).

In almond milk etc as “milk” on their websites – and to even stop stocking it next to dairy milks – maybe they’re scared dairy buyers will catch a conscience as they browse the shelves?

So, it seems as vegans up the ante in criticising the dairy industry, it is resorting to desperate measures to fight back. Remember, it is also pressure from the dairy industry that has led to the badger culls in the UK – despite the fact there is no evidence at all that badgers spread BOVINE TB ( ). So, quite rightly, activists have drawn parallels with the dairy industry. Quite simply, buying dairy milk leads to dead badgers.

The furore follows last year’s great Gary Facebook debate, when Sainsbury’s launched their own brand of vegan cheese ( )

Sainsbury’s had some free marketing over that one – somebody thought that it was wrong to call the product “cheese”. It seems the desperation goes on and one…

So, why can’t market forces just accept that ethical living is on the rise? Big supermarkets are getting in on the act, major multi-nationals are making money out of veganism and the “middle class” vegan has a huge part to play in the economy? Or, are those of us who are anti-capitalist just too prominent in the vegan movement? Revolution cannot be allowed to happen – remember!

Personally, I think there are too many rich and powerful players in the animal agriculture industry for politicians to allow it to fail – despite the fact we could feed the world many times over if we all went vegan tomorrow. So, while veganism was “allowed” to exist as a niche product line, the fact the number of vegans has exploded beyond even our wildest hopes as kicked the meat and dairy industry (it is one combined industry if we’re honest) into attack mode.

I’ve read posts on Facebook in the past about reserving the words burgers and sausages for meat products – but they’re just shapes! You get different meat varieties of sausages and burgers, so why not meat-free versions?

I have noticed in the numerous stories about veganism on national news sites that non-vegans in society as a whole now feel it necessary to go into attack mode in the dreaded comment sections. Does this come from a sense of guilt or a fear that their cosy lifestyle (of pain and suffering) is under threat?