What is Sweet Cicely and How Do You Use It?

Anise Chervil, Giant Sweet Chervil, Spanish Chervil

FR: Cerfeuil d’Espagne, Cerfeuil musque, Cerfeuil odorant

GER: Englischer (Spanischer) Kerbel, Wohlreichende, Sufcdolde

IT: Mirride odorosa

SP: Perifollo

BOT: Myrrhis odorata

FAM: Umbelliferae ILL: Plate 6, No. 5

What is Sweet Cicely and How Do You Use It? Photo Gallery

Sweet cicely is an old-fashioned herb found wild in northern Europe, including northern England and southern Scotland. It is a stout umbelliferous plant, growing usually about three feet high but sometimes reaching five feet. It has white flowers, large, lacy, downy leaves, hollow stems and a smell and flavour between anise and liquorice. It is perennial and can be grown from seed or by root division. Partial shade is preferable. One or two plants would be more than enough in a garden. It is sufficiently decorative to be used in an ornamental border.

Opinions are sharply divided on sweet cicely. Some would not give it house room, but others regard it as useful, particularly because it is available over such a long period: from early spring, right through the summer, and well into winter when other herbs are becoming scarce.

Sweet cicely has a tap root which, when boiled, can be eaten as a salad, dressed with oil and vinegar. The fruits are large and, when green, are also recommended to be eaten with oil and vinegar (Gerard’s Herbal). For people who like an anise flavour, sweet cicely can be used in sweet dishes or with fruit, and it is used in flavouring liqueurs.

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