Tag: alexanders

Getting Intimate with Wild Foods

Getting Intimate with Wild Foods

It’s been two and a half decades since I started a serious (and fun) relationship with foraging. And it’s been well over a decade since I’ve been teaching foraging (I’m writing this in 2019). Like any relationship, there’s ups and downs, boredom, frustration, elation, new…

Wild Alexander Seeded Bread Recipe

Wild Alexander Seeded Bread Recipe

Alexander seeds are one of my secrets. Okay, so perhaps a secret I’ve shared with a few people. Even so, it’s a lesser known wild spice that goes unnoticed by the majority of folk. I call it a secret because even if you bite into…

A Day in the Life of a Forager

A Day in the Life of a Forager

It always feels odd arranging to meet a stranger in a car park. Though that is where I met photographer Rick Davy at the start of my working day. I was on a mission to collect a specific green, and I said to Rick that if he wanted to join me, that’s where I would be. Rick, thankfully, was more generous with his words and company than I was. He happily tagged along as I picked my greens and returned to my kitchen to process them.

Smyrnium olusatrum

Rick had got in touch about a personal photography project called A Day in the Life of A and I had agreed to be one of his subjects. Rick also photographed Fiona Were, a fantastic chef that I sometime collaborate with for gourmet foraging events.

Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) is the green I had sought permission to harvest from local National Trust land (about five large stems). I had a lot of washing, chopping and cooking to get on with.  First I separated the leaves and stems, then I began to crystallise the young stems to incorporate into sweet filo tarts. I can’t remember if I offered one to Rick to taste, I have a feeling he left before they were baked.

Making Wild Alexander Tarts

(Image: Making sweet filo tarts with crystallised Alexander pieces)

If you’re intrigued about this plant, I have lots more blogs about it – Alexanders blogs and I cover them is a lot of my wild food foraging courses.

I have to admit of feeling envious of good photographers – they make it look so easy. I love drooling over a good photograph; the visual pleasures of colour, composition and story. Rick Davy’s photographs do that for me, and I am thankful for his sharp eye and generosity with this project.

Alexanders

(Image: Crystallised Alexander pieces)

Rick also joined me on another early morning foray – this time to pick Gorse flowers. Last winter I went crazy about these flowers. I even made a little video about Foraging Gorse in Winter – such was my love affair with them. In my first foraging book I share a Gorse Flower Rice Pudding recipe, and I’ve made so much more with them since then. That day I was trying to perfect Gorse flower truffles, and also wanted to dry some flowers for future syrups and cocktails. La, la, laaaa, the joys of foraging for gorgeous drinks and food.

Those days that I shared partly with Rick are the good days – the outdoor days. As a forager I manage to get outdoors everyday, into nature. The rest of my time is spent cooking, preparing, writing, doing administration and contemplating new ideas and adventures. If you want to see Rick’s photos, read the story and see more of his work, visit www.adayinthelifeofa.co.uk

Foraging: Free Gifts, Freely Given

Foraging: Free Gifts, Freely Given

It’s a fresh winter morning and I am sitting watching the sky lighten and the day begin. I am just sitting, doing nothing, while the day is offering nothing less than a performance. Blue sky starts to peek through, charcoal grey clouds move slowly in…

Winter Creamy Alexander Soup (vegan)

Winter Creamy Alexander Soup (vegan)

I’ve just returned home from a winter foraging course where we covered 10 wilds that you can pick here in Cornwall through winter. I love foraging in the cooler months and there’s a great choice of wild pickings too. I’ve written about and sung the…

How and Why to Cook with Alexanders

How and Why to Cook with Alexanders

Alexanders, Smyrnium olusatrum

The Romans valued the plant Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) highly and brought it over with them to the British Isles almost 2,000 years ago to use as a pot herb.

It was used widely before celery came into fashion (has celery really been in fashion?!). Celery has been mentioned as early as 1700s as a food and was used both as a cleanser and winter vegetable when greens were minimal.

So why do so many people say ‘urgh’ when they taste Alexanders?

It’s all about how and when.

Flower of Alexanders, Smyrnium olusatrum

Every single part of Alexanders is edible – the root, stem, leaves, flowers and seeds (though personally I’m not keen on the flowers). That’s not the case with every plant. However, you need to know for absolute certain that you have the right plant. This is essential, as Alexanders is a member of the Carrot family (Apiaceae, Umbelliferae) of which there are many wonderful edibles, and some DEADLY POISONOUS plants. As you can imagine, getting this right, is, essential, as I said.

That aside, the qualities of Alexanders are, I believe, worth searching out, especially in spring. Personally, these are a green I also forage through winter, yet they are definitely superior when they’ve been cultivated in the warmer soil and lighter days that March and  April offer.

My Tips for using Alexanders;

  • Use only the mininal amount of leaves raw, otherwise cook them
  • Start by using small amounts of this plant – as your taste buds mature you can use more
  • Use in a bland base and balance the right flavours for broths, as in my Alexander soup recipe. Add to milk, cream, coconut or potato for frittatas, muffins, and even Alexanders infused into rum.
  • Each part of the plant has different uses; leaves as a vegetable, young stems for candy and larger ones for stock, seeds as a spice
  • The large stems are the sweetest, though can become very fibrous (this can be avoided by boiling them for flavour and discarding the fibre).

Clam and Alexanders Broth

Oh, and if you’d like more tips on Alexanders, I can show you, for real, on my Spring wild food foraging courses

A Memorable Winter Foraging Menu

A Memorable Winter Foraging Menu

I’m often asked what my favourite time to forage is, well spring is fantastic, though honestly, winter is becoming an increasingly wonderful time to forage. The quiet, the abundance of plants and the unexpected joys of finding food (not in the supermarket) this time of…

My Five Top Spring Wild Foods

My Five Top Spring Wild Foods

Spring is exciting – a combination of warmth and light gets plants, animals and human-animals going. Sometimes, for me, too going. The term mad march hare feels too close to home for me, as I prance around the hedgerows picking wild greens as if there…

Forage and Cook: Alexanders

Forage and Cook: Alexanders

A quick and quirky video on Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) 

 

 

Let me show you more tips, share more recipes and tasters on my Wild Food Foraging Courses.

Most spring courses include Alexanders (greens), and late summer and autumn courses include the Alexander seeds/

A Hearty Snack – Savoury Alexander Muffins

A Hearty Snack – Savoury Alexander Muffins

I love muffins. Easy to cook and more substantial than bread. They’re also versatile – you can add almost anything (sweet or savoury), and so tasty you can just eat them on their own. I like them as an afternoon snack while working at the…