I find it funny that samphire appears when the first flush of people
come to visit Cape Cod in the spring, and sticks around just as
long as many of the last seasonal visitors do. It grows mostly in
colonies, thousands of small spears, bright green and standing
erect right at the shoreline, revealing themselves at low tide and
becoming submerged when the tide is high. When perfectly ripe
in early summer, the shoots are tender and crunchy and taste like
the ocean, salty and perfectly satisfying. These colonies are the
happy hosts to hundreds of tiny crabs which navigate through
the wild beans like you or I might in a dense forest.
It just so happens that samphire has a wonderful companion sea
plant, sea blight, which complements it both in the field and on
the plate. Sea blight is more mildly salty in flavor and resembles
a sprig of rosemary, with a central stem and many soft bristle-y
needles. The needles slide nicely off the stem and offer a softer
texture when eaten alongside the bright and crunchy seabean.
Both samphire and sea blight were regularly mixed together in
seaweed salads on Michael’s menu at Ceraldi restaurant this past
During the last beach plum season I called my Gram, now
ninety three years old, and reminded her of the stroller walks
when she would point out the purple berries to me. She is still
sharp and remembers everything from birthdays to beach plums.
Just before the berries were ripe this year, I had asked her advice
when I was picking them for Michael, because although some
were ripe and ready, others needed more time. She surprised me
by telling me the flavor of the tarter berries would round out the
taste of the plumper, sweeter ones and add complexity to a jam,
compote, or sauce. It made perfect sense.
I am continually learning from my elders and from others with
an interest in wild food, refining my eye in nature and my palette
(and my palate) in the kitchen. With each coming season, there
is something extraordinary to look forward to.