Wild Angelica – A Foraging Guide to Its Food, Medicine and Other Uses

Wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris) has often been regarded as the poor man’s substitute for garden angelica (Angelica archangelica).

However, the uses of this wild edible are just as varied and interesting.

Scientific Name

Angelica sylvestris.

Family

Apiaceae

Botanical Description

Umbrella-like clusters of white flowers tinged with pink or purple burst from a hairy stalk and stem with purple furrows. The appearance of the leaves might be confused with the leaves of poisonous hemlock water-dropwort (Oenanthe crocata). The inner stem is spongy and the short, thick root is filled with milky juice. The seeds are reddish and hard.

Status

Native to Britain, Europe, northern and southwestern Asia; introduced to Canada and North America.

Habitat and Distribution

Prefers woodlands, hedgerows, wetlands, streams, marshes, and canal banks.

Parts Used For Food

Stalk, leaves, flowers, root.

Harvest Time

A perennial plant flowering from July to September.

Food Uses

The traditional use for angelica – both wild and garden angelica – is as candied decoration for cakes and sweets.

Garden angelica is more often used because the leaf stalks and stems are not as tough and bitter as wild angelica.

The shoots, stalks or stems are boiled till soft then peeled and the fleshy pulp is crystallised by soaking in sugar syrup and baking in the oven.1

Wild angelica is almost as versatile in the kitchen as garden angelica, and it can be used as a substitute for garden angelica in most recipes for sweet and savoury dishes.

Boil the young leaves and stems to eat as a vegetable or chop the leaves and add to stewed fruit like rhubarb.2

The sweet-tasting roots are also edible and the aromatic seeds can be used as a culinary spice.1

Nutritional Profile

There is little information on the nutritional properties of wild angelica, however, it may be helpful as a medicinal food.

The plant can be useful for minor stomach upsets and indigestion thanks to its antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory actions.3

Wild Angelica Recipes

Herbal Medicine Uses of Wild Angelica

Wild angelica is often recorded in herbals as a poorer substitute for garden angelica.

Like garden angelica, it may be used for many complaints from lung and chest diseases to rheumatism and corns – however, garden angelica is often the preferred plant of choice.4

There are specifically documented uses for wild angelica in Irish folk medicine. For example, chewing the roots of the plant before breakfast was said to cure heart palpitations and promote urination.1

Irish records also document wild angelica as a treatment for epilepsy,1 and to treat hydrophobia (a fear of water that was a symptom particularly associated with rabies in humans).5

Other Uses

Young children once used the plant’s hollow stems as ‘pea shooters’.1

Cautions

Like all species of angelica, wild angelica contains phototoxic compounds called furanocoumarins that may cause sensitivity to the sun.

Wild angelica juice may also cause a rash or skin inflammation in some individuals.6

About The Author

Robin HarfordRobin Harford is a plant-based forager, ethnobotanical researcher, and wild food educator. He is the author of Plantopedia: The Past and Present Uses of Wild Plants.

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References

  1. Jackson, PW. Ireland’s Generous Nature. The Past and Present Uses of Wild Plants in Ireland. Missouri Botanical Garden Press. St Louis, Missouri, 2014.
  2. Facciola, S. Cornucopia II. A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications. Vista, California, 1998.
  3. Quattrocchi, U. World Dictionary of Medical and Poisonous Plants. CRC Press. Taylor & Francis Group. Florida, 2012.
  4. Allen, DE. Hatfield, G. Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition. An Ethnobotany of Britain & Ireland. Timber Press. Portland, Oregon 2004.
  5. Pieroni, A. Quave, CL (eds). Enthobotany and Biocultural Diversities in the Balkans: Perspectives on Sustainable Rural Development and Reconciliation. Springer. London, 2014.
  6. Couplan, F. The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America. Nature’s Green Feast. Keats Publishing. Connecticut, 1998.

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  1. Love this! I’ve never grown A. archangelica as I thought it was just for candying but have been noticing A. sylvestris coming into flower and admiring the purple stems. Great to know I can eat it too ~ will be collecting seeds this autumn! What is the plant that looks just the same, growing in the same situation, but green stems?

      • Please be kinder. I have used Herbs in Asia as a teenager and when coming back to the States began to use them here. It does take a trained eye but things that look similar also have major differences.

    • could be alexanders
      cos i think you would notice it as that and angelica have a similar umbel character.
      alexanders has distinctive flowers and seeds
      it is also a very yellow green plant
      the flowers smell myrrhish and the seeds are black, largish
      seed of alexanders and small hogweed ground together make a tasty seasonong that i use instead of pepper

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