Whilst walking around town today I noticed that Sweet Cicely (Sweet Chervil, Myrrhis odorata, NL: Roomse Kervel) is currently looking really strong and fresh. It is a member of the Apiaceae family and is quite easy to identify at this time of year because it is one of the few plants which survives above ground throughout the winter. It is useful as green leafy vegetable in its own right, the roots are also very tasty however if you are foraging, roots are not an option. Pulling Apiaceae roots destroys the whole plant. Sweet Cicely has a distinctly Anise flavour and smells rather like Lovage. It is packed with nutrients at a time when not many other leafy wild herbs are around and is found to be aromatic, stomachic, carminative and expectorant by herbalists.
Many members of the Apiaceae family (formerly called Umbelliferae family) are highly poisonous (e.g. Hemlock), others are edible and several have been cultivated such as parsley, coriander and carrot. Few members of the family are above ground right now but when foraging for Sweet Cicely, as ever, you should consult a good feild guide before deciding to pick. If in any doubt don’t pick or taste. Sweet Cicely makes a lovely, easy to grow pot plant and seeds are available through gardening suppliers.
If your reliable source of Sweet Cicely is unpolluted you may like to eat it raw, chopped into a salad. A simple tea can be made from the fresh leaves and stems, which is said to help releive indigestion and possibly help calm coughs. I prefer the following recipe from Denmark. I found it on a Danish Schnapps Recipe website which also contains some useful information about the herb and how to make the Schnapps from other parts of the plant, if you are using your own rather than foraged material.
Danish Sweet Cicely Schnapps
- Put about 200ml chopped fresh Sweet Cicely leaves or stems into a clean glass jar.
- Add 350ml vodka and seal with a well fitting lid.
- Let the mixture steep/infuse at room temperature for 1 to 3 days.
- Shake lightly and taste your infusion from time to time.
- Strain and enjoy.
An alcoholic infusion can also be made using brandy. The vodka version apparently tastes rather like Greek Ouzo, I’m not sure if connoisseurs would agree.