Foraging in the British Countryside

Our London ladies hit the farm for some samphire scavenging

Riverford Organic Farm and Dairy started out with just one farm in the south east of England and now has sister farms and farm cooperatives around England. Their Riverford box scheme delivers around 40,000 boxes a week of organic fruit, veg, meat, dairy, and eggs to homes around the UK. We’ve spent the last eight years feasting from these Riverford veg boxes so when we started our nourishing food business Hemsley & Hemsley in 2010 we knew we had a trusted supplier lined up.

The lovely people at Riverford recently invited us down to visit the Orchington Farm estuary in beautiful Devon to pick samphire from the only certified crop of samphire in Britain. The samphire season is short–only July to August–and as we didn’t know much about this unique little plant we jumped at the opportunity to learn more!

Samphire is a succulent, crisp sea vegetable with a naturally sweet and salty flavor–bearing evidence of its mineral-rich coastal habitat, thriving where conventional crops cannot. It is rich in vitamins A, C and, D–sailors would take pickled samphire on board for long journeys to help prevent the dreaded scurvy. Much like oysters, this free food for coastal dwellers now boasts designer status. No longer just a garnish on ice trays at posh fishmongers, any chef worth their salt will sport it on their menu.

While we struggled keeping our coordination in the mud, the wind, and our fly-away plastic bags, we crouched over the tiny bright green shoots and used scissors to cut the individual stalks. By the time we had enough for a few spoonfuls of the crunchy stuff, Guy Watson, founder of Riverford, had already filled a bag to bursting and started on his second. With 25 years of harvesting vegetables, Guy just gets down to the task in hand and goes for it!

After a few hours of happy samphire picking, we got to stop and eat some of it, freshly cooked for us right there on the beach by Kirsty, Riverford’s head cook. Kirsty had asked her dad, an accomplished angler, for some spider crabs for our lunch but since it hadn’t been the right weather to catch them her dad came back with a huge sea trout from the River Erme, about 2 miles away instead–lucky us!

Kirsty had neatly stuffed the fish with dill from her windowsill and baked it in white wine. She served it cold with plenty of lemon wedges and freshly cooked samphire, blanched on a camp stove in the open air and then topped with local butter.

As we munched away we asked Guy how he likes to serve his samphire, “hot with a poached egg” was his reply. We’ve taken his advice and added a little sweet and spicy twist to this simple recipe. No need for bacon with these breakfast eggs–samphire adds the salty wholesome crunch and a quick blend of honey, harissa, and olive oil takes care of the rest.

Stay tuned for our Poached Egg, Samphire, and Honey Harissa Dressing recipe!

xx Melissa & Jas