Andreas Buben

Zeekraal - Samphire - Glasswort

The Superfood Growing on our Coasts: Zeekraal's Nutritional Benefits and Culinary Uses

Next to “Zeekraal” this halophyte has several common names, such as "Marsh Samphire”, “Glasswort”, and “Saltwort”. It also resides under the scientific name Salicornia europaea. It naturally occurs along coast marshes and is widely dispersed around Eurasia, North America, and south Africa. The plant has succulent towering shoots, with a yellowish bright green color. The reduced leaves remind of scales and turn into a pink or red color towards the end of its life cycle. The plant takes up salt from the water and stores it in its leaves. Other plants would dry out but due to the form of the leaves evaporation rate is slowed down, and water stays in the plant.


Zeekraal in het Nederlands Waddengebied -

Culinary use

Zeekraal has gained in culinary popularity in recent years. With its salty sea taste it is preferred to accompany fish dishes. The plant's leaf crunchiness is preserved by blanching or steaming it. 

Medicinal properties

Samphire is a great source for minerals, vitamin C and carotenoids, which acts as an antioxidant with strong cancer fighting properties. The seeds of the plant are rich in unsaturated linoleic fatty acid. A polyunsaturated fat that can lower the risk of coronary heart diseases, compared to animal fat.

How to grow

Although Salicornia successfully grows in saline environments, germination of seeds is inhibited by high salinity. Seeds naturally germinate in spring when European coastal regions have a higher freshwater moisture content. The substrate in which it grows ranges from silts, to clays, coarse and shelly sands. In the Netherlands the Samphire season starts in May and lasts until September.

Other information

Glassworts were named in 16th century England for their use as an ingredient in glass and soap making. The original English glasswort plants are from the genus Salicornia, but the term was later extended to include other halophytic plants. Glassworts absorb sodium from salt water and store it in their tissues. When burned, the ashes can yield sodium carbonate or potassium oxide. The potash was then fused with sand. If additionally leached with limewater a higher quality glass could be created.