A plant that alternates between spending six hours drinking in the rays of the sun and river air and six hours immersed in frigid saline water. Its crispy stem retains saltwater while its leaves curve in on themselves to protect the plant from foreign particles and changes in temperature.
Every year in the month of May on the shores of Isle-aux-Coudres you can spot a few sprigs jutting out of the water. By mid-August, these will have reached up to 20 cm in height. Even though samphire is very fragile, it can grow in hostile environments which makes it so precious and unique. It grows near tidelands and mudflats in salt marshes and its colour can change from bright green to deep red as the seasons change.
Harvesting samphire is a labour-intensive process in a muddy environment. It requires extreme care and can only be done with a knife to avoid tearing up the roots. To this end, a cut is usually made 5 cm from the top to allow the remaining plant to keep its seeds so it can grow the next year.
Starting in mid-September, our team heads to Aurèle’s property for a dirt-covered harvest. Previously, only family members were given permission to harvest plants on the shorelines, but Aurèle and her brother Yvon fully embraced this sustainable project which has allowed us to make samphire an emblematic ingredient at our distillery and brewery.
These two islanders have established a scientific methodology to ensure both the plant and the environment remain unharmed. Clearcutting is not allowed. Moreover, we only harvest a small quantity spread over several sectors. That way the plants can keep growing for many years to come.
The samphire is picked by hand and then cleaned and dried at our distillery. Its salty content is the key to our Gin subtle flavour. After the distillation, we use a filtration process known as “la caresse” to extract the salt. We use this ingredient, which is also known as sea asparagus, in the mashing process of our Salicorne beer.