All the plants growing in the garden and in the wild have a story to tell. The more we learn about a plant’s story, the more we understand about its usefulness.
The popular group called ‘angelica’ is named after the Greek angelos, which means ‘a messenger’.
In Christian myth, angelica revealed itself as a cure to the plague in an archangel’s dream, and for centuries it was placed above all other healing herbs. The English herbalist and botanist John Parkinson (1567–1650), in his work Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris (Park-in-Sun’s Terrestrial Paradise, 1629) wrote: “it is so goode an herbe that there is no part thereof but is of much use.”
There are around thirty species of angelica, but it is garden angelica (Angelica archangelica) that is most mentioned in old and new herbal texts.
The wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris) with its tall, furrowed purplish stalks and delicate umbels of flowers that, as Geoffrey Grigson says, “seem to have been dipped in claret”, is an almost forgotten plant.
Its species name Sylvestris means “wild, of or from woods or forests”, yet it is angelic by association to A. archangelica and has acquired many archangel names through time.
Wild angelica (A. sylvestris) is a native British species, but by the days of the great herbalists, such as Parkinson, Gerard, and Culpeper, the species known as garden angelica (A. archangelica) had made its way across Europe (originating from Syria according to some authorities) to cooler, northern climates as far as Lapland and Iceland.
Scientific name: Angelica sylvestris
How to Use Wild Angelica
The leaf stalks have traditionally been blanched and eaten as a celery substitute. Goes well combined with rhubarb in various deserts, jams and sauces.
The leaves are aromatic and have a mild liquorice flavour which goes well in salads. Great with poultry or fish.
Bygone cookbooks often had recipes for candied Angelica flower stems and leafstalks, which where used in confectionary, cakes and pastries.
The young flower heads while still enclosed in their sheaths can be eaten in salads, omelettes or grilled and served with oil and vinegar.
The roots and seeds are used to make an essential oil to flavour ice cream, cordials, sweets and various bakery products.
The dried leaves where once used in the preparation of hop bitters.
All parts of the plant can be brewed into a tea.