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Divine Angelica

December 9, 2016 Back to Picks >

There aren�t many herbs that provide height when planted with other herbs. Dill and fennel do the job, but are not as attractive or aromatic as many would prefer. If that�s the case for you, try growing angelica.

Angelica (Archangelica officinalis) is a tall herb, eventually growing up to about 7 feet. It starts out the first year by producing mostly large toothed leaves on fennel like jointed stems that are thick and hollow and only a few feet tall. In the second � or sometimes third � year it will reach full height and produce large honey-scented greenish-white globe shaped umbels. Once it sets seed the parent plant usually dies. The seeds have a very short period where they are viable (able to sprout) so sow them immediately if you want angelica the following year.

Because of its height, angelica is best planted in the back of a border garden or in a place where it can act as a backdrop for other plants. Wherever you decide to plant it make sure it is in moist well-drained soil. Angelica is native to bogs and streamsides so steady moisture is especially important for healthy growth.

Angelica has been used for fragrance, food, and medicine. This herb has a perfume-like aroma that pervades leaves, flowers and roots. The fresh leaves can be added to salads, soups, and teas. Young stems have been candied, cooked with rhubarb or berries, and even added to jams. It is a key ingredient is some European liqueurs such as Benedictine and Chartreuse.

Angelica was also grown by our ancestors as a medicinal plant for body and soul. During colonial days it was recommended as an excellent defense against disease especially during epidemics �when the winds of death are blowing.� The dried powder of angelica was said to abate sexual lust and combat against the bite of mad dogs or venomous insects � although which was worse the experts didn�t say. To top it all, a sprig of angelica was believed to protect the wearer against evil spells. Good flavor, good taste, and good vibes � what an herb!