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Coming from the same family as lovage and angelica, this biennial herb was commonly used from the time of the Romans through to the turn of the last century when it found itself compared unfavourably to celery for which it can be substituted.


Both the stem and the leaf can be used in cooking, the stems are best picked young before the flowering heads open and cooked as for asparagus or celery. The leaves can be picked and used as flavouring for a green salad.

If the stems are picked to late then cooking them becomes hard work, they have a fibrous texture, which can be unpalatable and requires longer cooking. Ideally, they should be picked when the stems are young and tender and cooked in salted boiling water. I like to finish them in a pan with butter and fresh pepper finished with a sprinkling of the chopped leaves. Any leftovers or indeed older stems make for an agreeable soup or sauce.

Alexanders can be found close to the sea, in estuaries and hedgerows, they can be picked from mid winter until spring coming into flower from late April until early June.

Content and picture Miles Collins