Our wild food forager Alexandra Matts has been exploring the beaches of northern Norfolk to see what tasty treats are hiding amongst the rocks.
North Norfolk has much to recommend itself to the outdoors enthusiast- long deserted beaches, stunning birdlife, and some excellent spots for kite flying. Last weekend however, I ventured out with my thoughts firmly on my stomach. July is a perfect month to stock your larder from the seashore, and impress friends and family with your foraging skills. A quick caveat here- at this time of year, it’s a good idea to steer clear of shellfish. As a general rule it’s easiest to stick to months with an “r” in them (if in doubt, just Google “shellfish poisoning”….)
What’s good to eat now?
One of the easiest things to identify and search for is marsh samphire (generally known just as samphire). This is abundant on Norfolk’s salt marshes. Its fleshy, salty, juicy little spears are at their best in July and August, poking up through the mud and sand around the tide line. It’s easy to find and difficult to mistake for anything else. Once you’ve cut a few handfuls of samphire, you can take it home, boil it (I’ve generally found this is better than steaming) and serve as a vegetable with melted butter. Or, if you want to impress your beloved with breakfast in bed, poached eggs on samphire are easy and will earn you some serious brownie points.
There are tons of different ways to eat samphire, so for a few ideas have a look at the following websites, or send us your own! The Good Food Channel, A great article by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, and BBC Food.
What else can I find at this time of year?
Samphire isn’t the only edible delight that you’ll find by the sea in the summer months. While you’re searching for it, you’ll often spot sea purslane growing nearby. Again, this is easy to identify, and can be chucked in salads or used in similar ways to capers. Fennel plants abound on coastal footpaths in Norfolk, and sea beet, while trickier to identify, can be used in the same way as spinach. The seashore really is your larder. Just grab a few carrier bags, a pair of scissors, and enjoy! And after your day’s foraging? Well, samphire’s best found on the salt marshes, and no-one’s ever too old for a little mud diving!
A few useful seaside foraging tips
-Don’t uproot any plants without permission from the landowner, this is illegal, but easily done, especially with samphire. Taking a pair of scissors along with you normally helps avoid doing this by mistake.
-Steer clear of shellfish during the summer months and don’t pick anything that’s too close to well used paths, especially if it’s below dog height.
-The River Cottage Handbook No. 5, “Edible Seashore”, by John Wright is my bible. It’s full of useful tips, ideas and clear photos for identification. If you buy just one book on seashore foraging, make it this one!
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