“Half-way down / Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!” Shakespeare, King Lear.
The pickled version of this herb with the funny nickname was once so popular (and salable) that men risked their necks to collect it from the rocks. Hence the reference to the danger involved in collecting it.
Samphire originated in the shores of Great Britain and northern Europe and grows in rocky salt-sprayed regions of the seacoast. It is also very popular in Turkey. You can find samphire salad in most of the fish restaurants in Istanbul and along the coast of the Aegean Sea.
The bright-green leaflets full of aromatic juice are extremely salty. My favorite way of cooking this herb starts with blanching it for 15-20 minutes (depending on the toughness) to soften it and get rid of the excess salt. The boiling water gets quite stinky after this step. You then transfer it in a cold water bath and drain it, which also helps preserve the bright color.
As for the vinaigrette, my favorite is a mixture of olive oil (2 parts), balsamic vinegar (1 part) and pomegranate syrup (1 part).
It can also be sauteed in butter, or simply drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.
I also found a great recipe by Rick Stein: Warm salad of samphire, asparagus and crab.
So, all and all, is it really worth risking one’s neck? Obviously not, but this simple salad recipe is definitely worth trying.