Dust off your houppelande and strap into your kirtle, it’s time to take a trip to the Middle Ages. To prepare yourself for the journey, we need to stock up on an old world ingredient: angelica, the cure-all herb that wards off evil spirits, plague, menacing spells, or accidental (or incidental) poisoning.
Herb of the Angels: Angelica
The Middle Ages were a troubling time, for many people. To combat their troubles (psychosomatic or medical), folks turned to plants for a variety of remedies. For that reason, angelica was the Medieval plant of choice, a church-sanctioned catch-all for whatever ails you. Even it’s scientific name, Angelica archangelica, overstates it’s savior-like appeal.
Angelica shares a family tree with more modern, recognizable ingredients like fennel, parsley, chervil, and caraway. The first documented cultivation of angelica began in Europe in the 10th century, though botanical genealogists suspect that angelica originated in the Middle East. Angelica has been spotted all over the globe (propagated mostly by European colonists and settlers), growing in moderately temperate climates with damp or marshy woodlands.
The entire angelica plant is edible from the stalks to the leaves to the seeds and the roots. Even though it is not used as often as it once was, angelica is worth cooking with. There are a variety of angelica seed and spice options available online. For fresh angelica, contact your local food foraging group or farmer’s market.
Angelica’s mild, anise-like flavor means that most of the recipes you’ll find use the plant’s stalk for dessert or confectionary purposes much like rhubarb. The stems usually are candied and used for cakes, cookies, and candies. Try out these recipes, substituting rhubarb stems for angelica: Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble or Rhubarb and Coconut Cream Parfaits.
Angelica leaves are tender with a slightly bitter taste, making them an excellent addition to traditional salad greens or baby lettuce blends.
The roots have much more modern commercial use. So much so, you’ve probably been consuming angelica without even knowing it! The roots are aromatic, with notes of earth, musk, celery, pepper, herbs, and citrus. These aromatic properties are widely used in the perfume and beverage industry. Liqueurs like benedictine, chartreuse, vermouth, absinthe, and gin use angelica root.