Last week, armed with wellies and waterproofs, I headed down to Devon for a spot of samphire picking with the team at Riverford. The Miller family started picking marsh samphire on their farm on the Erme Estuary a few years after one of the walls on the banks of the Erme crumbled and it has been a popular addition to the Riverford veg boxes ever since.
The walk down to the estuary was quite literally a re-enactment of my youngest daughter’s favourite book ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’. Under the pouring rain, we left the farm and crossed a field with long, wavy wet grass. Swishy swashy; swishy, swashy. Then it was on to incredibly thick, oozy mud, so deep it was practically spilling into our wellies. Squelch, squelch; squelch squelch. Through some trees. Stumble, trip; stumble trip.There wasn’t quite a swirling, whirling snowstorm but the rain was coming down quite heavily. And then through the trees, we caught our first glimpse of the samphire – thousands upon thousands of spears peaking out of the shallow water as the tide came out. We made our way down to the banks of the river.
Samphire picking is a laborious task and it was almost as a relief to hear that there is a limit on the quantity of samphire that can be harvested each week during the three-week long samphire season. With scissors, we started cutting spears at their base,
taking care not to remove the roots. As we picked, the rain began to ease off and the sun almost came out. Meanwhile, a little stove had been set up. We heated some butter in a pan, tossed in the samphire, and enjoyed our pickings. Slightly crunchy with a gorgeous freshly picked flavour and salty undertones. Food doesn’t get much fresher. We washed it down with some elderflower fizz and finished off with Riverford’s wonderful buttery fudge. Very Famous Five.
Our bags full of samphire, we headed back up to the farm in the sunshine and then back to Riverford for a delicious lunch in the Field Kitchen. Yum.