We’ve been selling Salt Marsh Lamb online now for two seasons at Albert Matthews, people go crazy for it but a lot of people still haven’t heard or don’t understand what makes salt marsh lamb different from normal lamb so we thought we’d help explain.
What is a Salt Marsh?
To put it quite simply Salt Marshes are areas of coastal wetland located around the UK that are flooded and drained by the tides. The frequency and amount of area covered by water varies and is mainly dependant on the tides but it is also influenced by the wind direction, air pressure and the amount of water in the estuary. The highest tides are known as the “spring tides”. The reason they are called marshes is because the soil is mainly made up of mud and peat. Peat consists of old, decomposing plant matter and can get up to several feet thick. Peat is also generally waterlogged and has spongy texture.
Where are the Salt Marshes?
There are numerous Salt Marshes located along the English, Welsh and Scottish coastline. The area at Albert Matthews we source the majority of our Salt Marsh Lamb from is the Salt Marshes of Morecambe Bay and the Duddon Estuary.
- Carmarthenshire (Loughor Estuary)
- Glastraeth (Gwynedd)
- Crymlyn Burrows (Neath Port Talbot)
- Glastraeth (Snowdonia)
- Morecambe Bay/Duddon Estuary
- The Wash
- Keyhaven, Pennington, Oxey and Normandy Marshes
- Firth of Clyde
How the Salt Marshes are Farmed?
Farming on salt marshes varies on where the farm is located. Some farms will allow their lambs to graze all year round on the salt marshes and only move the flock to conventional grazing ground when there’s a spring tide which can be four or five times a year. In more exposed areas farmers move the flock onto the salt marshes once the worst of winter has passed. The Salt Marshes are not the easiest environment to farm lamb on and can be potentially dangerous at times from flooding risks and deep tidal channels. Lambing starts from late January and at this time of year it generally takes place indoors, however the lambs coming through from March onwards tend to be lambed outside as most see it as a more natural, healthy option. Depending on whereabouts of the Marshes in the country the first spring lambs are available from May onwards but generally it’s the salt marsh lambs that are available from mid to late summer onwards that have the better flavour once they have had chance to feed on new spring growth.
Why does salt marsh lamb taste different to normal lamb?
Most would think salt marsh lamb would taste salty but it actually doesn’t, the flavour is better described as light and sweet. Like most things involving food the French realised the delicious flavour of salt marsh lamb many years ago and it is treated as a delicacy particularly in the Normandy region where it is called “Agneau Pre Salé”. It is the unique flora that grows on the Salt Marshes such as glasswort, sea blite, salt marsh grass, sea milkwort, sea arrowgrass, sea lavender and samphire that the lambs feed on that gives the meat the flavour.
Why isn’t Salt Marsh Lamb available all year?
Although some farmers have their flocks on Salt Marshes all year round the meat is only really available from mid summer up to December. The meats flavour is derived from the diet so the lambs need to feed on the Salt Marshes new spring growth for a sustained period of time to gain the flavour.
How best to serve salt marsh lamb?
Most people just roast it like you would do normal lamb which is perfect and we believe the best way to enjoy it. To get the best of the flavour it is important to cook the meat until it is pink and not overcooked. Herbs also work very well with the meat particularly the traditional accompaniments of rosemary and garlic but we would recommend using less herbs than normal as you really want to taste the sweetness of the lamb. The French also use salt marsh lamb in stews, I have included put an authentic French recipe below for a Salt Marsh Lamb Stew from the Somme region.
Do you want to buy Salt Marsh Lamb From Albert Matthews?
- 1.5 kg of Diced Salt Marsh lamb
- 3 carrots
- 2 onions
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 60g butter
- 500ml of beef or lamb stock
- In a large pot, melt the butter over high heat and fry the sliced onions, lamb pieces and sliced carrots.
- Sauté a few moments until browned then sprinkle with flour and stir continuously reducing the heat a little, until the flour forms a roux.
- Then add the hot broth, salt and pepper and a bouquet garni.
- Further reduce the heat. Cover and simmer 2 hours.
- If you like, you can add quartered peeled turnips after one hour.