Samphire (formerly written sampire and sampetra, from the old Fr. name l'herle de Saint Pierre, Ital. San Pietro, from its growing on rocks), a very succulent plant of the parsley family or umbellifers, crithmum maritimum, with fleshy, dissected leaves, and compound umbels of small white flowers destitute of calyx teeth; the fruit oblong, dark green or purplish. It is a smooth perennial, about a foot high. Samphire is found on rocky cliffs by the seashores of Britain and southward to northern Africa, the roots penetrating deep into crevices by means of their numerous strong fibres. The leaves and young shoots have a pleasant aromatic taste, and the plant was held in great esteem by the old herbalists as a stomachic, and used in salads and pickled. It is still used in England as a pickle, and on the continent is sometimes cooked as a pot herb. - The plant sometimes called samphire in this country, and marsh samphire in England, is salicornia herbacea (Lat. sal, salt, and cornu, horn, a saline plant with horn-like branches), more generally known as glasswort; it is one of the goosefoot family, or chenopods. Its annual stems are 6 to 12 in. high, leafless and long, succulent, jointed, and much branching; the minute flowers each in a hollow in the stems at the joints.
It is very abundant along the coast and in saline marshes in the interior; it is much relished by cattle, and in Europe was formerly burned in large quantities for the soda contained in its ashes. It is said that much of the pickled samphire sold in England is really this plant, which is very abundant and more accessible than the true samphire, from which it differs not only in appearance but in the absence of aromatic flavor.
Samphire (Crithmum maritimum).
Marsh Samphire (Salicornia herbacea).