Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide

Candied Alexander Stems

Like a first kiss, it was the sweetness of Alexanders’ stems that got me hooked on their flavour and versatility. Also known as Black Lovage (Smyrnium olusatrum) and evocative of lovage, celery and angelica. Alexanders is one of the plants I cover in my book; Wild Food Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Freshly candied and dried alexander stems, Cornish wild food recipe

These candied stems are lovely as a walking snack, or use them in my moreish Alexander Filo Tarts.


Bravely appearing as a winter green and early spring green down south, I love seeing their glossy leaves along the coast and gathering handfuls in the sun when their presence, quite literally, shines. Originally brought over by the Romans, it is at home across southern Europe, and in Britain along the south coast from Wales to Norfolk.

Details of young wild alexander stems

Full of nutrition, particularly vitamin C, their unusual tang has helped developed my taste buds and deepened my appreciation of edible weeds.

Chopped young alexander stems

Growing as an invasive weed along roadsides, hedgerows and near the coast, their stems are smooth and slightly ribbed. I pick the small tender ones, about 1 cm thick.

Wild Alexander seeded cake on a foraging course

Candied Alexander Stems recipe

This quick and easy crystallising method results in something reminiscent of candied angelica but forfeits the traditional three-day candying process. Nibble it as a sweet snack, use to decorate rice pudding or enjoy in Alexander Filo Tarts

Jar of candied alexander stems, spring wild food recipe

Makes 120g


  • 200 g  alexander stems (5mm–1.5cm thick)
  • 100 g golden granulated sugar or brown sugar

To crystallise the alexander stems, wash and dry the stems and use them immediately or leave them to dry at room temperature for 24 hours before using. Finely chop and place in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until most of the liquid has gone. Add the sugar, stirring occasionally, and allow to cook for a further 10 minutes, or until most of the sugar has been absorbed and the mixture is starting to crystallise.

Young alexander stems candied, seasonal wild food recipe

The time taken will vary depending on your pan. I use an old-fashioned cast-iron pan, but other heavy-bottomed pans may take twice as long, or more. Once the stems are cooked, leave them in the pan and set aside to cool and harden, then store in a dry, clean jar or bowl until ready to use. Use within 6 months.

Do let me know if you try this recipe. It is perfect used in Alexander Filo Tarts too.

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