Monsters in the Garden; Alexanders War

it went down something like this ..

it went down something like this ..

It all started so innocuously. The Alexanders (Smyrnium olisatrum) were placid, if vigorous, as they established themselves in a sunny spot by our back door. There were few signs that these giant relatives of parsley would take after their ancient warrior namesake and wage a determined, aggressive War against their neighbours.

Once Alexanders were valued as both a medicinal and pot herb. A decoction made from the whole plant was used as a diuretic. Well into the 17th century, it was eaten to aid the digestion, especially during Lent. The practice is still alive in some regions of the Northern UK, where it has naturalised as a weed. I had wanted to grow it for the strong salty-celery flavoured leaves that impart a slightly myrrh scent to winter stews and soups. I had wanted to experiment with vodka liqueurs flavoured by the shiny black, peppery seeds. I allowed the Alexanders to colonise, even to expand their territory a little, partly because the plant is pretty, mostly due to its clusters of dainty yellow flowers attracting tiny hover flies, native wasps and bees.