Is this the first of the Umbelliferers to flower? Smyrnium olusatrum or Alexanders was introduced by the Romans and used as a celery substitute. It apparently prefers a maritime climate but it certainly thrives in Lewes. Grigson notes that it is often found near monastic sites and one wonders if it was cultivated at Lewes Priory and naturalised from there. In medieval times it was known as parsley of Alexandria. It was cultivated up to the 18th century then replaced by celery. Although not unpleasant tasting it apparently leaves a very bitter after taste and to reduce this, should be blanched by earthing up the lower stem.