Grit Blogs > Wayward Spark



Camille head shotOkay, so it looks like Italian parsley, but it’s actually something you’ve probably never heard of, a leafy vegetable called alexanders. Alexanders (so named because it was allegedly a daily part of Alexander the Great’s diet) is a biennial (produces for two years before sexually reproducing) green that’s closely related to celery and parsley (Umbelliferae

 family). It’s native to the Mediterranean but was spread by the Romans and has naturalized in many parts of Europe and Great Britain, where it’s a common hedgerow plant.

A bunch of alexanders
A bunch of alexanders. 

Alexanders is still semi wild, having lost favor in the culinary world after the domestication of celery, so the taste is strong and somewhat bitter, though mellower when cooked. Plant breeders have never made serious efforts to breed for larger petioles (the botanical term for a celery stalk) or milder flavor, so it’s retained it’s original healthful properties.

Sun shining on alexanders
Sun shining on alexanders. 

Henry got alexanders seed from our friend Frank at Wild Garden Seed. It’s much hardier than parsley and can grow outdoors through the winter. Alexanders offers a fresh-flavored kick to cold-weather soups and hearty root-vegetable-and-meat dishes.

Alexanders growing in oak leaves
Alexanders growing in oak leaves. 

Gardeners should plant alexanders’ large, dark seeds in the fall (in Oregon) as the rains start and temperatures drop. They won’t grow much the first winter, and then plants will go dormant during warmer months. In November of the second year, the plants will start to produce prolifically, yielding significant quantities over the winter. By the second summer, alexanders will go to flower and die. This pungent pot herb is a good candidate for shady kitchen garden spots because it requires no watering and almost no maintenance.