Sweet Cicely

How to Cook and Grow

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A herb known for producing exquisite flowering heads and leaves of pungent aniseed like flavour, I always look forward to the first cuttings to match with rhubarb, fish, sorbets and set custards. Without doubt a graceful herb, also known as giant chervil and anise fern they add colour and interest to any herb garden. In the spring months the plant produces clusters of white flowers, which attract bees and if left alone will seed itself.

Sweet Cicely

How to Grow

Sweet cicely thrives in partial shade and does not take kindly to hot temperatures, hence its abundance in the wilds of northern Europe. When planting be sure to dig a deep enough bed to accommodate its long taproot, best sown in the autumn it needs a period of frost over the winter months to germinate successfully. Thin the young plants out during early spring and space about two feet apart.

How to Cook

The whole of the plant smells of anise, the taproot can be cleaned and steamed for use as a vegetable whilst the seeds are used for flavouring liqueurs. I use the leaves in the springtime when they are still young and tender, perfect for sweet preparations and infusions. The leaves are perfect for flavouring compotes of stewed fruits and the French make fritters or beignets whilst the seeds, akin to miniature gherkins make a simple snack.


Content and picture Miles Collins