Sweet Cicely – Identification & Uses
It would appear that April has well and truly woken from her annual slumber. And, once again, she’s working hard to bring us her April showers! Whenever I’m out on my daily walk with Caber, I’m always astonished by the new growth that appears each day. However, I’m not so surprised when I invariably arrive home soaking wet! But nevertheless, I always manage to find a plant or two to nibble on when I’m out and about. And this week I’ve been nibbling on Sweet Cicely.
“A gush of bird-song, a patter of dew. A cloud, and a rainbow’s warning. Suddenly sunshine and perfect blue… An April day in the morning.
Harriet Prescott Spofford
Sweet Cicely – Identification and Uses
So, what can I tell you about sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata)? Well, let’s start with the fact that it’s a herb of the carrot family (Apiaceae). And it can grow to around 2-3 feet in height, as well as width. At the start of its growth, it raises its lovely little head in mid-March. However, it’s around now, the beginning of April, that you should start paying more attention to it.
Identifying Sweet Cicely
On the whole, sweet cicely is the easiest of the carrot family (Apiaceae) to identify. Therefore, it’s an ideal plant to get to know if you’re new to foraging. However, the carrot family of plants can look very similar to each other, and this can lead to confusion. In particular, if you’re new to foraging, it’s easy to make the wrong identification. With this in mind, you must acquaint yourself with a very toxic member of this family, the “Giant Hogweed”. (Tracker app for Hogweed).
Giant hogweed, as its name suggests, can grow to around 20ft tall. Displaying large leaves you can eat your dinner off! But, in order to help you to identify this noxious plant, I’ve included a free identifcation guide in this post. And it will tell you everything you need to know about the plant. So, do yourself a favour, and keep it with you whilst out foraging.
Heady Aroma of Anise
However, to identify sweet cicely, you merely need to pick a leaf.
- sweet cicely is a herbaceous, fragrant perennial
- growing to a height of 2-3 feet
- with fern-like leaves
- displaying umbels of white flowers, which bloom from May – Aug
- makes a great sugar substitute
- and contains vitamin A and C, calcium, potassium, iron and phosphorus
- their leaves have a sweet anise flavour and are edible
- and the roots, whilst chunky and parsnip-like in appearance, taste of yummy liquorice
- the leaves of sweet cicely display small white “chalk-like” random markings
- and the stem (also edible) is hollow, round with grooves and displays soft, downy hairs
- the seeds remind me of tiny cucumbers and they eventually turn black and make a lovely, edible treat
- the seeds can also be dried and powdered when green
- it’s also said to aid the flow of milk in animals
- and last, but not least, the roots produce a deep yellow dye
Moving on, let’s take a look at the many names sweet cicely is also known by:
- Beaked Parsley
- Cow Chervil
- Fern-Leaved Chervil
- Roman Plant
- Sweet Fern
- Sweet Cus
- Shepherds Needle
Medicinal Uses of Sweet Cicely:
- can be taken as a tea or tonic for asthma and other
- helps cough, chest and throat complaints
- has been used for digestion problems
- and urinary tract disorders
- it’s also used as a “blood purifier”
What More Can I Tell You?
And finally, what more can I tell you about dear sweet cicely? First of all, sweet cicely was introduced to the UK by the Romans. Subsequently, the scientific name of this plant (Myrrhis odorata) found it’s origins in Latin and Greek. In fact, the word Myrrhis is derived from the Greek word, Myron, meaning “perfume”. And odorata is rooted in the Latin word, odorus, meaning a “fragrant odour”. And last, but not least, you’ll find it growing in moist, grassy areas. You’ll also spy it beside rivers, streams, hedgerows and roadsides. Ripe for the picking!
Before I finish up today, let me share the recipe below with you. I intend to use this batter recipe to dip and deep fry garlic buds. But I’m also going to make a batch without adding the chopped sweet cicely. What I’ll do instead is dip the whole leaves in the batter and deep fry them.
Another cheeky wee recipe you can try is Sweet Cicely Schnapps. To make this you’ll need a bottle of vodka, 500g sweet cicely, along with 125g of sugar. Place everything in a bottle or jar, give it a shake and leave it aside for 1-3 weeks. And before you know it, you have delicious Sweet Cicely Schnapps to enjoy with your battered delights! Can’t wait that long? No problem, give the bottle a damn good shake and it’s ready to drink straight away. Cheers!
So, there we have it! This weeks post is over and done with, and thanks for taking the time to read it. In the meantime, make sure you stay safe. And, before you go, don’t forget to subscribe.
Tempura Batter with Sweet Cicely Leaves
- 125 g plain flour sifted
- 40 g finely chopped sweet cicely leaves
- large egg
- 5 oz water ice cold
- Ice cubes for chilling the water
Sift flour once or twice to remove any lumps and add in the sweet cicely leaves. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, gently beat 1 egg until the yolk and egg whites are just barely mixed.
Prepare ice cold water by combining water and ice cubes in a small bowl. Using a strainer, measure 1 cup of ice cold water and add it to the bowl with the beaten egg. (Don’t add any ice cubes to the tempura batter mixture).
Add the sifted flour and leaves into the bowl with the egg and water mixture and lightly combine the flour. Be careful not to over-mix the batter. (Use chopsticks to mix the batter)
The batter is now ready for immediate use. Coat your vegetables, fish or meat and deep fry in hot oil until golden and crisp.