Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Beach life – sea, sun and samphire

Sometimes you just have to . . . the urge to go to a beach on a sunny day is too strong to resist.

So, yesterday we went here . . .

A brilliant blue cloudless sky; the calls of curlew, sandpipers and oystercatchers; a haze of blue sea-lavender over the mud-flats – if ever there was perfect a day for walking over a North Norfolk salt-marsh then this was it.

And . . . what's this? A pirate captain's beaded chain washed up among the shells and pebbles in a beach pool!

Not really . . . I just couldn't resist photographing my new necklace that Emma helped me make on Saturday morning (well, Emma did most of the work!) – I made the patterns in the silver clay "shard" and arranged my beads – the large multi-coloured glass bead and the circular stripy one were part of a bangle I bought at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma; the bangle was far to too big for me, so I'm very happy that I can now enjoy wearing some of the beautiful beads at long last. To describe to Emma what I wanted to make, I "painted a picture" of a dangerously attractive pirate wearing a chain of eclectic sea-washed gems and a shard from a silver treasure found on an ocean shore.

Right . . . back to North Norfolk on Sunday afternoon . . .

In late June/July the mud of the salt-marshes sprouts with the glistening green shoots of the marsh samphire (Salicornia europaea) making a miniature landscape of forests and winding rivers. Samphire is one of those gourmet foraging treats; you need to be in the right place at the right time and eat it as fresh as you can manage – quickly blanched and served with fresh fish or seafood, samphire is a sharp crunch and the flavour of the briny sea.

We had more than enough for our supper – but there were plans for the rest ;-) Pickled Samphire for a cold winter's day to remind us of sun and sky and piping birds.


Carefully clean the samphire in lots of fresh cold water, then blanch it in boiling water for a minute. Refresh with cold water and lay on a clean tea-cloth to drain and dry a little.

Then pack the samphire into jars and top up with cold white wine vinegar; or use spiced vinegar that has been left to cool. I did some of each. For the spiced vinegar I used 'spices' grown in our garden: semi-ripe sweet cicely seeds, a few green unripe lovage seeds (not too many these are powerful!), dried coriander seeds, and a couple of bay leaves. I strained out the seeds before adding the cooled vinegar to the jars, but slipped one of the bay leaves into the side of the spiced vinegar jars to identify them from the plain ones.

If you live near a salt-marsh where marsh samphire thrives – happy foraging this July!



  1. so jealous... was stuck in sticky london all weekend, although i had fun, I would rather have been on the beach!... never eaten samphire... I must do something about that!

  2. You've brought back happy memories for me with this post. I was brought up on that coast and we used to go samphire picking as children - haven't had it for years, bet it's as scrummy as I remember it.

  3. I like it but I once had some in a posh restaurant and I think they'd picked thistles by mistake!
    Love your beaded chain..picture of pirate please? Lucky you having lessons from Lovely Emma.

  4. The perfect Jack Sparrow necklace! I've never tried samphire before but it sounds delicious.

  5. Lovely - one of my favourite places and samphire is delicious too!

  6. What a perfect day! One of my favourite places in the world is Stifkey salt marsh- being covered in mud and searching for Samphire in the creeks. There's also a great therapeutic feeling of washing and sorting the bags of Samphire when i get home. My mum has pickled Samphire in the past, and it tasted lovely ! Must get around to pickling some this year : )

  7. I can smell the salt and the sea, a breathe of summer!

    What a small world the blogosphere is, lovely necklace.

  8. What a wonderful day! I've been to the museum of glass in Tacoma! wonderful building - and a great restaurant opposite - Harmon's I think?

  9. lovely day out...& now i know what to do with the glass beads which are far too heavy for earrings!

  10. Sometimes North Norfolk is the most heavenly place in the world. I too like that necklace. Think I must try to make something like that with some big beads I have.

  11. I hope you had your hat and factor 500 on - it's unbearable here! I do miss the sea, having grown up a sea-sider. No samphire up there in Northumberland for us though, just yards of kelp.
    I pick it down here in Rye Harbour (and from Mel's visiting van every fortnight) and I don't even wash it - just eat it as it comes. I will have a go at pickling it now though!

  12. Samphire is a family favourite. My aunt has now found somewhere which sells it in Norwich! Only when in season, of course, but it still seems wrong to be able to buy it...

  13. Celia, it was so much fun going to see the sea with you. And finding treasure made the day even more wonderful! That jewelry is beautiful.

    Now, I have never seen samphire before, although I have read the word in many a book over the years. Once again, you have solved a mystery for me. Perhaps some day I will actually be able to pick, blanch, season, and eat some for real.

    Best wishes. xo

  14. I have bought samphire in Thetford and Diss markets - we keep on meaning to pick some when we go to the coast, but never seem to get round to it. I like to soak it in water first for an hour or two to get rid of just a little of the saltiness, but the texture and crunch is unbeatable.


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