Finally, finally, finally, I found a plac, in Denmark, where I could buy the salt-herb, known as Samphire. Something I have been awaiting for a really long time. Yes, actually for years.
It has been several years since I first got Deniz Börülcesi or Samphire / salt-herb / sea-asparagus / Salicornia as it is also called in English. Yes, in fact it took me a while to find out, what it was called in Turkish. Because at that time, I had never tasted anything like it in Denmark. So there wasn’t really anything to compare with. And I had no idea what it was called in Danish or English at all.
But salt-herb has in fact been used in Denmark since the Middle Ages and has now regained its foothold in the new Nordic cuisine and throughout the vegan and raw-food culture.
But in Turkey it has just been there all the time and even in different versions. However, I have only tasted it with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. And it definitely belongs to some of the best food I can ever get. Really simple and really tasteful.
Typically, you can get samphire at the restaurants in season along with various small meze dishes. Do try to order it. Because in Turkey, they are really masters at making it. And it is phenomenal to soak up the excess juice with bread. Yummy …
What is salt-herb for something?
Maybe you don’t really know about samphire (which you can probably sense I didn’t)? Samphire is a form of succulent that grows on the beach. A kind of “sea-cactus” just without thorns. It is only found, where there is a lot of salt in the soil. Or where the soil is regularly sprinkled with salt water and especially along the Baltic Sea, the Wadden Sea and along the coasts of Europe.
It grows in upright stems and grows about 5-30 cm high. The stems are light green early in the season and perfectly crisp and fresh. Later in the fall the color becomes more reddish.
If you are going out and picking samphire, you must bring a small scissor with you and take the smallest stems (the big ones become tree-like and are not very nice). You will find them along the coasts from April to September. Unfortunately, I have not yet been lucky to spot them, but hopefully it will come.
Far from Antalya?
If you are in Turkey you have to go all the way to the Aegean Sea – Tarsus, Burdur and by the “salt lake” Tuz Gölü to find them in the wild. But fortunately in the season they can be bought in many places in the markets and in the large supermarkets at the vegetables or at the fishmonger.
I don’t know if they can be found around Antalya, but I doubt it for some reason. The heat usually demands its victims.
As you can probably sense, it is a plant that tastes pretty salty as it grows in salty areas. But at the same time it is crisp and delicate and really quite delicate in its taste.
In fact, salt-herb is a real “super-food”, as it contains a lot of vitamins and minerals, that the body needs: vitamin c, sodium, potassium, magnesium, iodine, calcium, iron, zinc and more.
Use and preparation of salt herb:
It is actually really easy to prepare samphire. You can either use them raw, blanched, buttered or cooked. I’ve even seen the salt-herb mixed in a smoothie with sea buckthorn, apple, yogurt and honey. It is also really good dried, so you can use it as salt. However, you will need a lot a lot. Whole 10 kg samphire for 300 grams of finished powder.
The only thing that can be a little messy is, that the stems sometimes get a little too branchy. Then they are not worth eating. A bit like with asparagus, if you don’t break the bottom off.
So when I made them the other day, I just had to find the technique to pull the “branch” out of the samphire, so only the fine meat was left. It does give itself a little, but hold gently at both ends and pull the wooden end towards yourself by wiggling a little back and forth quite gently. It should be after the samphire has been boiled and cooled down with cold water to ensure the beautiful color.
Salt herb as spice salt:
Salt-herb can be used for really many things. If you look under notes in the recipe, you will get a few extra tips to prepare the beautiful green stems in other ways.
The salt herb is good both in wok dishes, chopped together with the father of fish cakes, in soups, pies, together with pasta and risotto or as an exciting feature in the salad. If you want to make your own spice salt, the branches should be dried in the oven at 65 degrees for 3-4 hours (not hot air). Then you can bump the branches and mix with a little bit of fine salt, along with spices or just on their own (they are salt enough in itself).
Maybe you think, it doesn’t seem Turkish as this blog is about. But it is. In Turkey you love to use “sea asparagus” / Salt herb for everything. And it is believed, that it is good for little of everything from intestinal problems to kidney problems (salt-herb is diuretic due to its high salt content), it strengthens the immune system, gives a nicer skin, etc.
Turkish samphire with olive oil and garlic
Turkish samphire / sea asparagus / salicornia is great as a small salad along with fish. Or as a part of turkish meze with many different dishes. See the 3 recipes here
- 150 gram Samphire
- 1 clove garlic, (finely grated)
- ½ lemon, (only the juice)
- 2-4 tbsp olive oil
1: Rinse and clean samphire thoroughly. There may be some sand in it.
2: Boil plenty of water and put the samphire in the pan. Cook it for 8-12 minutes
3: Quickly get the stalks into a doorway and pour over with cold water. Then you stop the further boiling and the samphire retains its beautiful color. Let them dry a bit and put them in a small dish.
4: If some of the stems feel a little thick and hard, try to wiggle the "branch" out of the stalk, so that you are left with the clean soft flesh. But it does require a little fingernail and caution.
4: Tear the garlic in a small bowl and add lemon juice and oil. Pour the dressing over the samphire.
5: Serve immediately (can rest a bit) with, for example, new potatoes and fish or use it alone as a meze or a small salad for the food.
Remember that there may be a “tree end” in the branch. It should be gently pulled out, so that the juicy soft meat can be eaten.
And just a few extra recipes.
• Add 3 cloves of garlic to the water, while it is boiling and put in the samphire. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Mix ½ dl of olive oil with ½ tablespoon white grapefruit vinegar (or white wine vinegar), ½ tablespoon pomegranate vinegar, ½ tablespoon bell pepper, ½ tomato in small cubes and a little “pul biber” / chili flakes and add it to the cooled samphire.
Boil the samphire with plenty of water and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Rinse with cold water after 8-10 minutes. Add some lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Mix a dressing of 1 tbsp mayonnaise, 1½ dl of Turkish yogurt and 1 clove of grated garlic and serve with the salt.