How To Grow Samphire
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Samphire is a vegetable. It treats scurvy – as some people claim. There are two types – the marsh samphire and the rock samphire. The marsh type is widely available.
Marsh samphire is used as a salad ingredient. Its stalks are deep green and salty. Some people prefer to eat the vegetable raw, and you can buy the stalks as pickles.
Marsh samphire is widely scattered in North America, South Africa and in Eurasia. In the European setting, the plant grows naturally on its coastline. It also grows inland in places with saline waters.
Cultivation for Commercialization
You might want to look into the possibility of making money out of cultivating samphire. The image below shows a large-scale production of the plant in Israel.
In Israel, the most common cultivation approach is to grow the plant in sand dunes. The plants are watered using drip irrigation. For growing with the purpose of using samphire as vegetable, only the tender and fresh parts are sold.
When the plants grow to a height of 10-15 cm, the first harvest is done. Farmers leave about 5 cm of the plants when cutting them (5 cm is the cutting table height). The plants are then allowed to re-grow. The process is repeated in subsequent harvests.
How to Grow Samphire at Home
When researching on how best to grow samphire at home, be informed that the plant goes by other names like sea pickles, sea asparagus, glasswort and other names that don’t sound English. Here’s an easy-to-follow guide:
- Use a container to grow the plant in. Put that container on your window sill. It can also be planted in the ground.
- Watering the plant is one of the challenging parts of growing it. The recommended solution is: for every pint of water, put a teaspoon of proper sea-salt. Never use common salt.
- Samphire grows well under conditions where the soil is slightly sandy and where it can enjoy full sun.
- Samphire is a self-seed plant. If conditions are kept to avoid frost, it will produce new seeds that will germinate the following year. Don’t cut it at the wrong time when it is about to produce seeds.
- The period from March to May is the best time for sowing samphire seeds.
- The best temperature for growing is 25 ºC.
- When the seedlings reach the height of 1 inch, it’s the best time to transfer them to pots with free-draining compost.
Samphire is an annual plant (meaning, it germinates and produces seeds within the first year of its life, and continues to produce seeds every year thereafter). Under favorable conditions, the plants flower and produce seeds from August to September.
The plants will turn red when winter comes, indicating that they will produce flowers within a few days or weeks. The last phase of their life-cycle also begins around this time.
If you prefer samphire to be saltier, the red stalks will perfectly suit your taste. On the side of aesthetics, it is always the deep green samphire that is usually preferred.
Harvesting should be done before flowering occurs. The latest time you should do that is when the plants start to flower. Drastic changes in taste and texture occur during the flowering and the seed production stages. The stems become woody and start to dry beginning from this stage of the plant’s life.
Seed Saving and Storage
You may collect the plant’s seed rather than just letting them fall on the ground. Wait till it turns brown. Before it dies and collapses, cut off the top growth. Place it on newspaper for drying, and allow the seeds to fall off.
When moisture has been decreased, place the newspaper and its contents inside a paper bag, occasionally shaking them. That’s around 2 to 3 times each month. When the next spring comes, retrieve the growth and winnow off shoots, stems and dirt. The seeds will be ready for the next planting by then.
Choosing The Best Environment Growing Samphire
Whether you intend to start a business out of growing samphire or it is only for personal consumption, here are tips to help you succeed cultivating this plant:
- Although samphire likes to grow in saline environments, its germination can be inhibited by too much salinity. The best environment for germination is one that has reduced salinity and with low temperature. Typically, the best condition for germination is the spring season.
- These plants grow in almost all levels of soil conditions. They are found at low to high levels of muddy and sandy salt marshes. Those that grow in intertidal locations thrive on shelly-sand, gravels, fine clays or silts. You may have to try growing the plants on different types of soil rather than restricting yourself to the “slightly sandy” type.
There are studies that have been conducted to help in planting and growing samphire. You may particularly check the approaches being implemented in the Middle East and Ireland, and many other parts of Europe where the samphire industry is growing.