Angelica – the Archangel

IMG_8359Nature is a an amazing thing just as the rhubarb comes into its own the angelica ( Angelica archangelica) raises its lofty head as if to say  ‘here I am don’t forget how useful I am’

Before I started growing angelica I  associated it with the sticky green candied variety used to decorate cakes and puddings. But now I know better. Fresh angelica is one of those amazing plants that reduces the acidity or sourness in fruit such as rhubarb and gooseberries so that much less sugar is needed to sweeten it.

The plant in the picture is in its third year and as you can see from the swollen stems near the top it is really trying to flower. The flower is a large umbelliferae (Apiaceae) blossom which is really quite beautiful. I have removed the flowers to try and prolong this plant’s life because once it flowers it will die.  However, I feel that this one will probably sneak a flower or two when my back is turned and then gracefully fade in the autumn. But all will not be lost as each flower head produces literally hundreds of seeds which look a bit like fennel or cumin seeds. The seeds should be planted immediately as if kept there is a much lower germination rate. Before winter there will be lots of little seedlings ready to be planted out for next year and the promise of tender fresh angelica. I have just planted three plants into a different herb bed which I grew from last year’s seed just to make certain that the angelica supply will not cease.

So how to use angelica? The simplest use is  adding a few leaves when your are stewing fruit and remove them before serving. ( People don’t really like seeing wilted leaves in their pudding).  Taste the stewed fruit before adding sugar and you will be amazed that it not very sour – add sugar with care as you will probably need much much less than you would normally add.

But if you have a little more time then why not go for pan cooked rhubarb and angelica  served with vanilla infused cream and some home-made shortbread. But the most delightful spring pudding of all is rhubarb and angelica tart where a creamy rich filling made with double cream infused with angelica and vanilla, eggs and sugar is poured over rhubarb and baked.

 

 

 

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