It is believed Angelica originated in northern Europe and was not used until the fifteenth century. It was associated with early Nordic magic as protection against plagues and evil. It was used in many pagen and Christian festivals. According to folklore, Its efficacy as a cure for the plague was revealed to a monk in a dream. Another legend explains the name; Angelica blooms on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel and so offers protection against evil. In medieval times European mothers made necklaces from the Angelica leaves to protect their children from illness and witchcraft. Fresh or preserved roots have been added to snuff used by Laplanders and North American Indians as tobacco. There is an account of angelica in an 1687 letter by Reverend John Clayton. He wrote that Virginian Indians would come upon rare wild growing angelica and dig up the root, cut off the top and replant the root. The root was rubbed between his hands to attract deer.
What is Angelica?
Angelica is an impressive looking plant. It can reach an ultimate height of 6 feet or higher with a 2 foot width. It has fragrant greenery at ground level with indented leaves. Its hollow leafstalks resemble those of celery, they branch out and support the umbels (heads of small flowers which are followed by aromatic seeds.) It is of the same family as fennel, parsley, chervil, carrots, parsnips caraway, Queen’s Anne Lace, lovage. and asafoetida. It can takes 2 to 3 years to flower, with greenish white flowers in midsummer. It often dies off after flowering so it is rather short lived perrenial. It does well in damp woodlands, meadows and riverbanks. Its leaves resembles water hemlock which can be very poisonous.
Culinary Uses of Angelica
All parts of Angelica are used, roots, seeds stems and leaves. The roots and stems contain an essential oil that has a licorice flavour used to flavour Benedictine, Chartreuse and Vermouth. The oil is also used in perfumery. The leafstalks which resemble celery are sometimes used as a vegetable. The seeds are used in cookies and sweets. The stems can be candied and used as in cookie and cake decorating. Young leaves can be added to fruit or leaf salads. The small flowers which should be picked early in the spring taste as good as they smell and are good in fruit salads and cream cheese. Because it reduces acidity, it can be used as a flavouring for rhubarb, orange marmalade, sorbets and fruit syrups. Availability is limited, you have to grow your own to use fresh leaves or stems. It is a great addition to the garden and bees love it.
Attributed Medicinal Properties
Angelica is supposed to promote perspiration and stimulate the appetite. It is used to treat ailments of the chest and digestion. A tea made from angelica leaves can calm nerves and is good for digestion
Safety Concerns Angelica should be avoided by pregnant women and diabetics Handling without gloves could make your skin sensitive to sunlight or could cause contact dermatitis Small amounts of seeds and stem are safe but large amounts of fresh root are poisonous
Wild celery, masterwort and dang gui (China).
Angelica Archangelica Fam: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
12 oz Angelica stalks
1 cup Granulated sugar
Choose stalks that are young and tender. Cut into into 3-4 inch lengths, put them into a pan, cover with water and bring to a boil.
Drain and scrape away tough skin and fibrous threads with a potato peeler. Return the angelica to the pan, pour on fresh boiling water and cook until green and tender about 5 minutes or less. Drain the stalks and dry them.
Put them into a bowl and sprinkle granulated sugar between layers. Cover and leave for 2 to 3 days. Slide contents of the bowl into a heavy-based pan. Bring very slowly to the boil and simmer until the angelica is tender and looks clear.
Drain, then roll or toss the shoots on greaseproof paper with sugar. Then dry off the angelica in the oven, using the lowest temperature about 3 hours.
Wrap and store after cooling completely.
Illustration: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen / Public domain-Wikipedia commons