Herbs & Plants

Smyrnium olusatrum

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Botanical Name :Smyrnium olusatrum
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Smyrnium
Species: S. olusatrum
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Apiales

Synonyms: Alexanders. Alisanders. Black Pot-herb.

Common Names :Alexanders, alisanders, horse parsley

Other Names : Alexander parsley, Macedonia parsley, horse parsley. Alick,(Kent). Alisanders, skit, skeet, (Corn). Ashinder, (Scot). Megweed, (Suss). Meliroot, (Dor). Wild celery, (I o W).

Habitat : Smyrnium olusatrum is native to the Mediterranean but is able to thrive farther north (Ireland: Counties Down, Antrim and Londonderry.) It grows in hedges and waste places, often near the sea.

Smyrnium olusatrum is a  perennial herb, growing 3 or 4 feet in height, with very large leaves, doubly and triply divided into three (ternate), with broad leaflets;with a hollow and grooved stem. The sheaths of the footstalks are very broad and membraneous in texture. The yellowish-green flowers are produced in numerous close, rounded umbels without involucres (the little leaves that are placed often at the spot where the various rays of the umbel spring). The whole herb is of a yellowish-green tint. The fruit is formed of two, nearly globular halves, with prominent ridges. When ripe, it is almost black, whence the plant received from the old herbalists the name of ‘Black Pot-herb,’ the specific name signifying the same. (Olus, a pot-herb, and atrum, black.)


Succeeds in most soils but prefers an open sunny position in a well-drained moisture retentive soil[200]. Hardy to about -15°c. At one time this plant was extensively grown for its edible leaves and stems but it has now fallen into virtual disuse, having been replaced by celery. The seeds are highly aromatic with a myrrh-like scent. A good bee plant.

Seed – best sown in an outdoor seedbed in autumn and planted into its permanent position in late spring[1, 200]. Germination can be slow[200]. The seed can also be sown in situ in spring.

Edible Uses:
Aroma : pungent when crushed. Seeds aromatic.
Taste : bitter. Bland taste when bleached.

Leaves and young shoots – raw in salads or cooked in soups, stews etc. The plant comes into growth in the autumn and the leaves are often available throughout the winter. They have a rather strong celery-like flavour and are often blanched (by excluding light from the growing plant) before use. Leafy seedlings can be used as a parsley substitute. Stem – raw or cooked. It tastes somewhat like celery, but is more pungent. The stem is often blanched (by excluding light from the growing plant) before use. Flower buds – raw. Added to salads, they have a celery-like flavour. The spicy seeds are used as a pepper substitute. Root – cooked. Boiled and used in soups, its flavour is somewhat like celery. The root is said to be more tender if it has been kept in a cool place all winter.

It is intermediate in flavor between celery and parsley. It was once used in many dishes, either blanched, or not, but it has now been replaced by celery. It was also used as a medicinal herb. In the correct conditions.

Cultivated and blanched like celery, as pot herb. Made into sauce for fish. Young shoots and tops  of fleshy roots blanched and boiled or raw with vinegar. Roots as parsnip substitute.

It is now almost forgotten as a foodstuff, although it still grows wild in many parts of Europe, including Britain. It is common among the sites of medieval monastery gardens.

Medicinal Uses:
The whole plant is bitter and digestive. It has been used in the past in the treatment of asthma, menstrual problems and wounds, but is generally considered to be obsolete as a medicinal plant.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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