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Smyrnium olusatrum, common name Alexanders, is a cultivated flowering plant, belonging to the family Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae). It is also known as alisanders, horse parsley and smyrnium. It was known to Theophrastus (9.1) and Pliny the Elder (N.H. 19.48).
The plants are stout to 150 cm high, with a solid stem which becomes hollow with age. The leaves are bluntly toothed, the segments ternately divided the segments flat, not fleshy.
Alexanders is native to the Mediterranean but is able to thrive farther 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 It was once used in many dishes, either blanched, or not, but it has now been replaced by celery.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 120 to 150 cm tall.
It is now almost forgotten as a food source, 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 the leaves, the stems, the roots, and the buds.
Alexanders is a feed source much appreciated by horses.
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- Webb, D.A., Parnell, J. and Doogue, D. 1996. An Irish Flora. Dundalgan Press Ltd.Daldalk. ISBN 0-85221-131-7
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