Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrum

Alexanders & Mussels (invading moules)

If you ever find yourself around the North Devon and Cornwall coast you will find Alexanders Smyrnium olusatrumalexanders have populated everywhere. Like many plants they have done a much better job of colonisation than their Roman introducers; in some areas, they are even considered an invasive species. Alexanders stayed popular for some time right up until celery took their place. A curious fact considering that although their texture and appearance are similar to celery their taste differs greatly.

A coastal visit during winter should yield enough mussels and alexanders to make this recipe. Some find the taste of alexanders quite overpowering, in this recipe, their flavour does not take over power the dish and the taste remains as a gentle background reminder. I consider this dish to be a great introduction to the individual taste of alexanders. – For a video that includes some mussel foraging check out a short film I made called the forager’s way. 


60 mussels
1 onion
30g finely chopped alexander leaves
60ml parsnip wine
60g butter
Black pepper to season

Prepare the mussels put them in a very large saucepan with the onion and half the alexanders. Pour in the parsley wine and heat to steam the mussels open. Slowly over the next few minutes, each mussel will open; discard the ones that don’t. Pour into a colander and collect all the juices (the tastiest part of the mussels). Pour the juice back into the saucepan leaving about one tablespoon in the bowl, this last bit often contains grit. Heat and bring back to the boil whisking in the butter.

Put the mussels into a big bowl then pour the juice over them adding the rest of the alexanders and a few twists of black pepper.