Delicious Rock Samphire – Kritamo to the Greeks
- by XpatAthens
- Friday, 20 February 2015
The English have liked many varieties of samphire for eons. Typically, they pickle them – so do the Greeks. Samphire is mentioned by Shakespeare in King Lear: Half-way down Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade! (Act IV, Scene VI). In the UK it is a dangerous business to collect this delicious plant.
In Greece, it isn’t so dangerous! On Ikaria, it grows along the rocky backdrop on the main beach, Messakti, as well as all along the coast, indeed, sometimes in treacherous locales.
Samphire is one of the healthiest greens. Its therapeutic values have been known since antiquity. Both Dioscorides, the father of pharmacology, and Pliny, renowned botanist, wrote about its properties. Hippocrates recommended it for its diuretic and detoxifying abilities. It is chock full of antioxidants and has use as such in cosmetics, too. It is said to brighten age spots and to lend a healthy glow to skin.
It is rich in iodine and is packed with phytochemicals that protect the liver, heart and cellular DNA. It is also rich in vitamins A, C, B2, B15, amino acids, and minerals, such as iron, calcium and magnesium phosphorus, calcium, silica, zinc, manganese and vitamin D.
There are several ways to “cure” samphire and many ways to enjoy it. I typically blanch it in generously salted water for a few minutes, drain and then steep in vinegar and salt for 24 hours. Then, I drain the leaves and preserve them in extra virgin olive oil. Kritama make for one of the best ouzo mezedes. I love to serve them with grilled fish, too.
To make pickled samphire/kritama:
Collect 1 pound / half a kilo of the leaves. You want to collect only the tenderest leaves and buds. The time to do this is in May and early June in Greece.
Wash them very well.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water (6 tablespoons to 1 ½ quarts/liters water) to a boil and blanch the samphire for 3-5 minutes, just to soften. The leaves will still be bright green and crunchy.
Rinse and cool.
Pack the leaves tightly in jars then add 2 teaspoons salt and fill the jars with vinegar. Close the lid, turn over a few times, then let stand for 24 hours. Drain, place back in the jars, and cover with olive oil.
By Diane Kochilas