With buds appearing on the choice, young Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) I spend an afternoon gathering down near my local river. The sun is shining, the sky an azure blue, and the smell of Spring is finally in the air. My body sighs with delight as I relax into the land. Winter finally feels put to bed.
According to Randall in the Journal of Ecology, Alexanders was “probably used since prehistory, became very popular during the time of Alexander the Great (fourth century BC) and was widely cultivated and eaten by the Romans, who introduced it into western and central Europe, up to the British Isles where it is now completely naturalised”.
There is much research being conducted on Alexanders for its anti-cancer properties, particularly for breast and prostate cancer.
Claire my friend from Cumbria is visiting Zillah and myself, and I decided to introduce her to Alexanders. Although usually considered a coastal plant, Alexanders are gradually moving inland. I’ve watched this migration over the past years with delight, for Alexanders is, without doubt, one of the choicest wild edible plants of Britain.
With Claire being gluten-free I decide to try out a traditional way to serve Alexanders, namely in a cheese sauce. So here you have it, my gluten-free Alexanders recipe.
- Enough Alexander buds to fill your baking dish
- 25g corn flour
- ½ pint goat’s milk
- 100g cheddar cheese (grated)
- salt and pepper
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then drop in the Alexander buds (you can add stems too if you want). Put a lid on the pan and bring back to the boil, then drain and arrange in a baking dish (I use a glass/pyrex one).
- Heat oven to 200?, and while heating up in a saucepan mix the cornflour with a little milk until it forms a paste, then add the remaining milk.
- Now put the pan on the hob and stir continuously until it starts to simmer, then continue simmering and stirring for five minutes or so. When done add the grated cheese and stir in until you have a smooth sauce.
- Next pour the gluten-free cheese sauce over the Alexanders and pop in the over for ten minutes, or until they are nice and golden on top. Voila!
Further reading: Traditional and Modern Use of Alexanders.