The Romans can’t have travelled light as it often seems they bought much of the naturalised flora and fauna to the UK and Alexanders bitters is no exception. Here in Bristol it spread from one of the small islands out in the Bristol channel as the seeds were washed ashore. It has fared really well, a little too well in fact as it is now considered an invasive plant and groups of people will go out and pick it to rid public areas of it. Thankfully, they can never really get on top of it and we have it in abundance across the South of England.
Alexanders is one of the first plants to grow in the foraging year and it tends to be one of the edge lurkers. You’ll find it lurking on the edge of wooded areas, often growing alongside ivy. It lurks along river banks and near to water courses. I’ve never seen it grow much inland even in Bristol where it is rife it seems to stay within a few hundred meters of our rivers.
The Romans grew it as a food, some sources suggest as an alternative to celery but I think this misses the point really as it is very different tasting. The taste is floral almost perfumed, closer therefore to another cousins, lovage or even angelica.
The name Alexanders name gives a suggestion of its North Africa origins. The Romans knew it as the “pot herb of Alexandria“, Alexandria being an important Roman sea port in Egypt named after Alexander the Great.