Image- Tatto Grasso

Alexanders

I bet you've never  heard of  Alexanders even if you do live in Norfolk! So it came as a great shock to the County when in 2002 it's favoured emblem of the blood-red field poppy was cheekily swapped by Plantsman magazine and declared henceforth to be Alexanders.

Well, horses like it! (Another name for it is Horse Parsley) and it prefers the coast... Apart from that it's pretty nondescript and indeed where I live in South Norfolk, not seen hereabouts. 

It is an invasive herb plant principally of cliff-tops and hedgerows. Originally from the Mediterranean regions it doesn't much like the cold so salty coastal regions with milder winters seem to suit it well.

 

It is pretty uninspiring unless you were a medieval cook when you might have used it for culinary purposes. The 'pot herb of Alexandria' was brought here by the Romans and can often be found around the ruins of old priories. All parts of the plant are edible and it is said to taste like a cross between celery and parsley which it indeed resembles having something of the look of celery about it with yellowy-green tri-foliate leaves and umbels of cream flowers. It's seeds are black and peppery.

 

Alexanders seems to have fallen out of culinary favour when celery, as we now know it and a plant of marshlands, began to become commercially available.

You can forage for Alexanders and treat the stems like asparagus and the roots like parsnips. Remember though to check you are not confusing the plant with similar but toxic varieties and as the plant and foraging guru Richard Mabey so wisely wrote in his brilliant book Food for Free, ‘Indigestion brought on by uncertainty about whether you have done yourself in can be just as uncomfortable as real food poisoning!’         

Given a new public poll as to whether Alexanders  or the common poppy is more deserving of county symbol status, I'm sure I know which plant would be chosen!

                         Granny Bonnet