What’s Angelica?

Garden Angelica FR: Angelique

GER: Angelika, Brustwurz, Engelwurz IT: Angelica SP: Angelica

BOT: Angelica archangelica (Angelica officinalis, Archangelica officinalis)

FAM: Umbelliferae ILL: Plate 11, No. 5

Wild Angelica FR: Angelique sauvage GER: Wilde Engelwurz IT: Angelica selvatica SP: Angelica silvestre BOT: Angelica sylvestris

American Angelica BOT: Angelica atropurpurea

A giant member of the parsley family, this hardy annual, biennial or triennial stands up to seven feet and has a very thick, hollow stem and white flowers. It is grown from seed and really fresh seed is essential for germination. Preferring rich damp soil and some shade, it dies after seeding.

What’s Angelica? Photo Gallery

The origin of angelica is given as either northern Europe or Syria. Whichever is correct it grows wild today locally from the Alps and Pyrenees to Lapland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Siberia.

Angelica does not seem to be very ancient as a flavouring herb (probably fifteenth century). It was introduced into England at about the beginning of the sixteenth century. Today it is grown commercially, mainly in Germany and France.

Nobody knows just why this herb is connected with angels in almost every European language.

Old blogs credit it with power against ‘the evil eye’, and say it cures a number of diseases. It is still used, medicinally, mainly as a digestive.

Although angelica is best known in the form of the candied young green stems used for decorating cakes and trifles, all parts of the plant – stem, leaves, seeds and root – have some purpose in cookery. It is eaten cooked as a vegetable in some countries – for instance in Greenland, Sweden and Finland, and the Faroe Islands. The raw blanched young shoots may also be used in salads. Some advocate angelica leaves in chopped herb mixtures or in a court bouillon for fish and shellfish; others, that it should be served as a sweet after boiling in sugar. A most excellent use is as a flavouring for rhubarb or in orange marmalade. It is an ingredient of many liqueurs and aperitifs, the flavour being introduced either by maceration or in the form of the essential oil: absinthe, anisette, vermouth or even gin may all contain angelica.

Angelica has a strong and penetrating taste, which some have described as ‘musky’, but it varies considerably with climate. There are many people who violently dislike it so, if used, it must be with discretion.

In Britain and continental Europe, the allied wild angelica grows in damp woods and flowers in July and August. In America, the wild species is American angelica, sometimes wrongly called Alexanders. Neither of these species has so good or strong a flavour as the true garden angelica.

Japanese angelica comes from yet another species and is very strongly flavoured.

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