Garden Angelica

Garden Angelica (Angelica archangelica; syn. Archangelica officinalis Hoffm., Archangelica officinalis var. himalaica C.B.Clarke) is a biennial plant from the umbelliferous family Apiaceae. Alternative English names are Holy Ghost, Wild Celery, and Norwegian angelica

During its first year it only grows leaves, but during its second year its fluted stem can reach a height of two meters (or six feet). Its leaves are composed of numerous small leaflets, divided into three principal groups, each of which is again subdivided into three lesser groups. The edges of the leaflets are finely toothed or serrated. The flowers, which blossom in July, are small and numerous, yellowish or greenish in colour, are grouped into large, globular umbels, which bear pale yellow, oblong fruits. Angelica only grows in damp soil, preferably near rivers or deposits of water. Not to be confused with the edible Pastinaca sativa, or Wild Parsnip.

Angelica archangelica grows wild in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland, mostly in the northern parts of the countries. It is cultivated in France, mainly in the Marais Poitevin, a marsh region close to Niort in the départment Deux-Sèvres. It also grows in certain regions in Germany like the Harz mountains.

From the 10th century on, angelica was cultivated as a vegetable and medicinal plant, and achieved great popularity in Scandinavia in the 12th century and is still used today, especially in Sami culture. A flute-like instrument with a clarinet-like sound can be made of its hollow stem, probably as a toy for children. Linnaeus reported that Sami peoples used it in reindeer milk, as it is often used as a flavoring agent.

In 1602, angelica was introduced in Niort, which had just been ravaged by the plague, and it has been popular there ever since. It is used to flavour liqueurs or aquavits (e.g. Chartreuse, Bénédictine, Vermouth and Dubonnet), omelettes and trout, and as jam. The long bright green stems are also candied and used as decoration.

Angelica is unique amongst the Umbelliferae for its pervading aromatic odour, a pleasant perfume entirely different from Fennel, Parsley, Anise, Caraway or Chervil. One old writer compares it to Musk, others liken it to Juniper. Even the roots are fragrant, and form one of the principal aromatics of European growth – the other parts of the plant have the same flavour, but their active principles are considered more perishable.

Angelica contains a variety of chemicals which have been shown to have medicinal properties. Chewing on angelica or drinking tea brewed from it will cause local anesthesia, but it will heighten the consumer’s immune system. It has been shown to be effective against various bacteria, fungal infections and even viral infections.

The essential oil of the roots of Angelica archangelica contains β-terebangelene, C10H16, and other terpenes; the oil of the seeds also contains β-terebangelene, together with methylethylacetic acid and hydroxymyristic acid.

Angelica seeds and angelica roots are sometimes used in making absinthe.

A seeds of a Persian spice plant known as Golpar (Heracleum persicum) are often erroneously labeled as “angelica seeds.” True angelica seeds are rarely available from spice dealers.

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