“What did the Romans ever do for us?”
Well, they decided to plant lots of herbs on our tiny little island, many of which have long since been lost from the allotment, but can still be found growing profusely in the wild. Two centuries after planting Alexanders to feed themselves through the colder months, this member of the wild carrot family (a potentially deadly bunch, so please be careful!) can be found nestled in hedgerows along coastal paths and seafronts. In its full form, it looks remarkably like a lot of other wild plants - some delicious, some dangerous - but the Winter growth tends to set it apart from being confused with most other species, barring the deadly Hemlock Water Dropwort*.
Later in the year, you can eat the stalks, flowers and eventually the seeds (watch this space), but we’ve sent out the leaves of the plant this month to be used as a herb - some of you may have even received flowerheads and stems, which are just as good to use. Flavour-wise, it has been described as spicy, pungent, perfumed, aromatic and apparently even tastes like myrrh (we cannot verify this) so is a versatile ingredient to have in your culinary arsenal. We enjoy it on sandwiches, as a garnish for curries or whizzed into a guacamole. Without question, though, our favourite way to really get to grips with this sophisticated herb, in what perhaps might be called an unsophisticated manner, is blitzed into a vodka and served alongside steamed crayfish. Dust off your food processor and simply drop in a handful of raw Alexanders leaves with however much vodka you are in the mood for, before passing the resultant liquid through a sieve. The result will be nothing like you’ve ever tasted before but will perfectly compliment the rich, floral sweetness of the crayfish. Sun not past the yardarm? You can substitute the vodka for water and create something they probably mess around with on those televised cooking competitions.
*Again, please be careful! Alexanders is not a beginner plant to identify!