Sweet cicely is one of the important ingredients in Chartreuse liqueur and is also included in the Scandinavian aquavit, which is used as a digestive and an aperitif. Native to moist, cool, mountainous areas of Europe, sweet cicely is a fully hardy perennial, forming a clump of delicate, fern like and very sweet tasting leaves. The large handsome umbelliferous heads of white flowers are followed by slender 2.5cm seeds which are technically fruits. They are aromatic and deliciously nutty when eaten raw and green. Both the leaves and green fruits are very high in anethole, which gives them their sweet anise scent. Mature seeds are shiny dark brown.
Sweet cicely requires a humus rich moist soil, a cool climate and a shady location. Allow the seed to fall around the parent plants, where they will germinate in spring. Alternatively, stratify the seed by placing moist, sterile sand or vermiculite inside a sealed plastic bag and store in the fridge crisper drawer for 8 weeks before sowing in spring. Remove flowering stalks to prolong leaf production. Harvest young leaves for fresh use. They retain little fragrance after drying. Pickle the unripe seeds and clean and store the young roots in brandy.
Boil the roots as a vegetable. They can also be candied like angelica and used as a decoration for desserts. Use the crisp, celery tasting stems in salads. The leaves of sweet cicely have a warm, anise aroma and a pleasantly sweet taste. Use them fresh in salads or add them when cooking sharp fruits such as gooseberries and rhubarb and some varieties of apples, as their natural sweetness will counteract the tartness. The are a safe sweetener for diabetics. The green seeds can be used for the same purpose. Sweet cicely leaves add a lovely flavour to cream, yoghurt, rice pudding, fruit and wine cups, soups, stews and dressings. Use leaves in omelettes and soups or as a garnish.
information sourced from The Complete Book of Herbs
What I blogged:
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- three years ago – Granola