Sunday 24 August 2008

glasört & smör

Glasört? Smör? What the heck are those?

Well, they are both Swedish words.

Glasört is a type of coastal succulent also known in English as salicorne, glasswort, pickleweed, sea beans or samphire.

Smör is the Swedish word for butter, so if you guessed this post is about tossing fresh samphire in a little butter, then you were spot on!

In the 1960s, Jonas’ admiral grandfather secured the lease to an idyllic property near an important naval base in the south of Stockholm’s archipelago on the island of Muskö. The family built a cute little stuga (cottage) and the lease has stayed in the family ever since, with generations experiencing summers in this very Swedish location.

The house is at the end of a winding forest pathway and overlooks a beautiful point with a small beach, jetty and forest garden filled with wild blueberry, raspberry and lingon bushes.

It’s a heavenly location but the accommodation is basic with no electric lighting and no hot water. Drinking water is pumped from a nearby lake, the toilet is a bucket in an outhouse and the shower is the sea.

We spent four wonderful days there, lazing in the sun, swimming in the Baltic Sea, drinking Gimlets and cooking over the fire. It was 30’C days, blue skies and the sun set at around 10pm every night. Bliss.

It was at Muskö that I made this basic side dish of samphire, which suited our location and provided a burst of salt while we ate on the beach. Not everyone liked it (Christian and Jonas found it very salty) but Helena and I enjoyed the texture and flavour.

I would certainly eat it again. And again. It’s my new favourite thing. Just writing about it is conjuring memories of the crunchy, salty fronds. I’m salivating!

My recipe is slapdash and rustic but it’s not at all complicated. The only thing to remember is don’t use any salt. No salt in the water. No salt on the greens. Samphire is so salty on its own that anything additional will take it over the top.

Glasört & Smör

Anna’s very own recipe.

Bunch of samphire
Knob of butter (or olive oil)
Freshly milled pepper
Lemon wedge


1. Pick over the samphire and make sure all pieces are firm and crunchy. Remove any soft ends.

2. Bring a pot of water to the boil.

3. Throw in the samphire and blanch for 1-2 minutes, depending on how much you’re making. Less time in the water is best. You want it very crunchy.

4. Drain, toss with butter and fresh pepper.

5. Sprinkle with some lemon juice and serve warm or cool.

As this is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Srivalli from Cooking 4 All Seasons, I thought I’d also include photos of Muskö to share with you some of the beauty and peacefulness we experienced.

Samphire is a succulent that grows in coastal areas, beaches, mangroves and along salty flats. A little confusingly, samphire is used to describe a few different yet all edible plants. In my case I’m referring to marsh samphire (Salicornia europaea) however rock samphire is also eaten.

Salicornia are native to the USA, Europe, South Africa and South Asia and, while there are said be over 60 species, the most commonly eaten is Salicornia europaea.

It has a woody base but the succulent, fleshy summer leaves are green and juicy, with a real salty burst of flavour similar to asparagus and artichoke. They are best eaten before the plant flowers and the leaves turn red in autumn.

The word samphire is a corruption of the French "Saint Pierre" because St Peter was the patron saint of fishermen, but marsh samphire was known in Old English as glasswort because the ashes were used to make soda ash (Sodium carbonate) for industrial soap and glass production. Clearly the Swedish name glasört has the same industrially-related origins.

Samphire is most commonly eaten pickled or simply dressed as part of a salad. It is served raw or lightly blanched and is an excellent accompaniment to seafood dishes, naturally.

Other samphire recipes:
Pickled Samphire
Salt Marsh Lamb, Samphire & Broad Beans
Crab & Samphire Risotto
Samphire Sauce
Warm Salad of Samphire, Asparagus & Crab
Fennel & Samphire Fishcakes
Barbequed Rock Lobster w Samphire
Hake in Agrodolce w Samphire
Marron & Samphire

If you’re curious for more Sweden-related recipes, or just like looking at our recent holiday photos, there are more to come! In the meantime check out:
Tokyo food
Swedish countryside photos & Pytt i Panna recipe
Thai rose apples



  1. I have heard of samphire, but haven't ever seen it here. I'm thinking it only grows by the ocean, do you know if that's right.

    Love the scenery photos. Wow, it looks so beautiful there.

  2. Anna you have really enriched with so much information! I have never heard abt samphire, so its really nice reading abt it..thanks for the lovely entry!

  3. Samphire is widely available in the UK. I have never cooked with them myself.your recipe seems like a perfect introduction to someone like me. may I also comment on the lovely shots. What an idylic place.

  4. oh, I have sen them in the market but couldn't figure out what to do with them. great post and beautiful photographs.

  5. Never heard of samphire before but you've written a lovely post about them and that beautiful place you spent four days. It really is an idyllic place to spend some holidays there in the nature.

  6. wow what a way to spend summer!!! I love the little cottage, with the sea nearby, and though I may never eat samphire - just reading your post makes me feel like I was there !aaah heaven....


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