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Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum)

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Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum)

Alexanders are making a comeback. It’s a bit of a Marmite plant: foragers either love or hate the taste of this distinctive, enigmatic wild food. It’s a member of the carrot family and you can eat all parts of the plant, from its fleshy stem, to its leaves, roots, flowers and seeds. An excellent foraging fact? The taproot is a bit like parsnip and it’s one of the most nutrient-rich wild foods going!

Alexanders The Great

This robust and versatile plant was once loved as a garden vegetable and pot-herb by the Greeks and Romans. Rumour has it that Alexander The Great was a big fan, demanding that it be grown in his gardens in Alexandria. Not a man afraid of his own ego, the Egyptian city Alexandria was named after the big man himself too ⚔️. Word spread about the ‘Parsley of Alexandria’ and it was the sought-after herb of the season. As with all influencers of their time though, it fell out of fashion as more exotic imports were introduced.

How to ID… Alexanders

Alexanders grow upright up to 1.5 metres. The stem is a distinct green colour, stout and ribbed. The leaves are a glossy dark green with serrated edges that taper to a pointed tip, reminiscent of the shape of a spearhead. During spring, it has clusters of small yellow-green flowers that form umbels at the end of each stem.

Tastes like… Celery!

Those who appreciate its aromatic charms compare Alexanders with celery (stem), followed by hints of parsley (leaves), anise (leaves and stem), parsnip (tap-roots) and a subtle peppery kick (seeds).