Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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Luscious vegan ice cream spiced with wild seeds

This is a divine, non-cream ice cream. Not vegan? You'll love this anyway! At the risk of repeating the whole theme of bitter-sweet, but hey, why change something that works so well.

Vegan, delicious and personally, I must put it back in the freezer to stop myself eating it all. This is one of the 6 (half a dozen) Alexander Seed recipes on my Alexanders blog.

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Identifying alexander seeds and leaves on a foraging course in Cornwall

Alexander seeds are an amazing spice, known for their peppery, aromatic tang with a hint of bitterness. An unusual flavour when bitten into, sometimes it's hard to know how to use these seeds. Here I share 6 of my best recipes for Alexander seeds.

1. Alexander seeded bread

A beautifully wild seeded bread recipe. Alexander seeds add a wonderful aromatic flavour and is perfect served with wild pesto from my Wild Food Foraging Book, great with Rock samphire salsa verde or even with kelp hummus from my Seaweed book.

2. Raw cacao and alexander truffles

Delicious and wild date-rich energy balls infused with the myrrh-like scent of alexander seeds. These are quick to make and a wonderful adult treat.

3. Alexander and orange shortbreads

Buttery, melt in the mouth shortbreads, with a tang of Alexander seeds and orange – scrumptious! The combination of orange and the bitter of alexander seeds is a winning combination.

4. Alexander and lemon drizzle cake

Looking like a poppy-seed cake, the slight bitter of the seeds go nicely with lemon, especially if you prefer a sweeter edge to your treats.

5. Alexander seed and chocolate truffles

Truffles get people excited; they feel special and luxurious. I love the crisp outer and soft inner of these chocolate truffles with the Alexander seeds playing on the pleasure of bittersweet.

Alexander and coconut vegan ice cream

Everyone agreed that this is a divine, non-cream ice cream. Vegan, delicious and personally, I must put it back in the freezer to stop myself eating it all.

I love the crisp outer and soft inner of these truffles. The Alexander seeds play on the pleasure of bittersweet, giving these dark chocolate treats a wonderful and surprising twist.

If you want to find out more about this plant, take a look at my Alexanders blog, there you'll also find a dozen alexander seed recipes. This recipe is made my first making Aromatic Alexander Seed and Lemon Drizzle cake - you'll find instructions for this below too!

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I thought it was about time I wrote about this highly poisonous plant; Hemlock water dropwort (Oenanthe crocata). Any plant with 'hemlock' in its name is a fair sign to avoid it. While I normally write about wild, edible plants, sometimes it is good to know what NOT to eat.

In this blog you'll discover how to identify hemlock water dropwort, where it grows, why to avoid it, and a little about its uses too.

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Gift wrapped, homemade, wild spiced candied almonds

A crunchy unrefined sugared snack complete with the delightful zing of hogweed seeds. Inspired by my talented friend and chef Fiona Were. Fiona created a delicious hogweed seed caramel for a group of foodie Americans whom I took foraging here in Cornwall. This recipe balances the carbohydrate of sugars with the protein of nuts and, in my experience, gives a definite lift to sluggish afternoons.

Hogweed seeds (Heracleum sphondylium) is a member of the umbellifer (carrot) family and must be identified correctly to avoid illness or death!

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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 praises of winter foraging before in; Why Cornwall is excellent for foraging even in winter.

Smyrnium olusatrum

On the foraging course we shared the joys of being outside in nature, as well as some great tastes and a hot flask of Alexander Soup. I always make wild tasters for courses and soup felt fitting for December, as did using some of the abundant growing Alexanders (Smyrynium olusatrum).

All the soup was appreciatively devoured, though luckily I'd kept a portion at home to have for a late lunch. You can read and see lots more  - including recipes - about Alexanders in the Alexanders section of my blog.

Meanwhile, lets get to it. Here's this delicious recipe which is so easy to make, good for you and seasonal here in Cornwall.

Smyrnium olusatrum

Winter Alexanders Soup (vegan)

Serves 4, generously

Ingredients 

  • 200g alexanders leaves (large stalks removed)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 150g pots, diced (scrubbed, though not peeled)
  • 200g creamed coconut
  • 1250ml boiling water
  • 3 tsp powdered vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper

Finely chop the finer Alexander stems and put aside. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat, chop the onion and add to the sizzling oil, stir and cook until translucent. Lower the heat, add the potatoes and Alexander stems and sweat for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, measure out 1.25 litres of boiling water. Chop the cream coconut, discarding any blocks of coconut fat place in a large, heat-proof bowl, pour the boiling water over the coconut, and stir until dissolved. Pour into the saucepan, season with stock and salt and pepper. Chop the Alexander leaves and add to the pot, cook for 7-10 minutes, or until tender. Blend and serve, or pour into a hot flask and take to the beach for a hearty lunch.

Smyrnium olusatrum

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

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