Alexanders is a cultivated flowering plant, Smyrnium olusatrum, belonging to the family Umbelliferae. It is also known as alisanders, horse parsley and smyrnium. It was known to Theophrastus and Pliny the Elder.
Alexanders is native to the Mediterranean, but is able to thrive further north. The flowers are yellow-green in colour and its fruits are black. Alexanders is intermediate in flavor between celery and parsley. It was once used in many dishes, either blanched, or not, but it has now been replaced by celery. It was also used as a medicinal herb. In the correct conditions, Alexanders will grow up to four or five feet tall.
It is now almost forgotten as a foodstuff, although it still grows wild in many parts of Europe, including Britain. It is common among the sites of medieval monastery gardens.
Look out for this tall plant on cliff paths, the first seaside greenery of the year. The Romans brought it with them to eat: leaf, stem, root, and buds.
‘Alexanders’ are a feedstuff much appreciated by horses.