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Growing Herbs

Angelica – Angelica Archangelica - The Archangel Herb. 

According to legend, the herb Angelica archangelica, took its name from the Angel who revealed its virtues to a monk during the plague. Angelica is said to give protection from the infection.

Angelica archangelica is native to northern Europe and Asia; it is a biennial, though it often lives for three years, growing from 4-8 foot in height, with divided pale-green leaves and green flowers that bloom in July and August, followed by flat oval seeds. The whole plant gives off a pleasant muscatel scent.

Growing Angelica.

Sow from seed of Angelica archangelica in July at the back of a border or in shallow 'uncovered' drills 20 inches apart. germination often fails as a result of the gardener nor knowing that theses seeds need light to germinate! The normal herb sowing regime of shallow trays and seed lightly covered will not be successful for Angelica. Do NOT cover the seed with soil until you see germination has taken place, and the first root - the radical - has emerged. then cover with a light layer of horticultural vermiculite.  

Angelica archangelica plant grown mainly for the stems which are used in confectionaryThe plants will need supporting as they grow taller, though if surrounded by low growing perennials, this sometimes suffices. Angelica requires a moist soil, containing some humus. Angelica will flourish in semi-shade - preferring dappled shade to direct sunshine. Again - as with Clematis - they will tolerate full sun if the root area is shaded. Bear in mind that whilst this plant is good for height effect, it also has a good spread down at the base with its lush foliage. 

The lush - somewhat large - attractive foliage, together with the long spikes that hold the floral umbels of pale yellow flowers, make this a good specimen plant, with its 'architectural' qualities. It is well suited to a centrepiece, surrounded with smaller contrasting herbs - such as the purple leaved Origanum varieties.

The common Archangel has a more colourful relative in the shape of Angelica gigas. This variety has deep red stems and bright red  floral umbels, which contrast well with the bright green foliage. The foliage of this variety being more attractive than the normal version. Angelica gigas is slightly shorter than its green cousin - being around 1.2 metres tall.  

An explanation of the name of this plant is that it flowers on the day of the Archangel Michael. Because of that it is seen as a preservative against most evil spirits and witchcraft! All parts of the Angelica archangelica plant are said to be effective against witchcraft spells. It was once known as ‘The Root of the Holy Ghost.' 

Medicinal Uses of Angelica

Angelica archangelica is a carminative and aids the digestion system, due to the angelicin it contains, it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Angelica lowers fevers and acts as an expectorant. A poultice of the leaves is said to help sooth sunburn, but should be used with caution.
An infusion may be made by pouring a pint of boiling water on an ounce of the bruised root, and two tablespoonful of this should be given three or four times a day. As such it is a good relief for flatulence!

Nowadays, it is only the common green variety of Angelica archangelica that is used for medicinal or culinary purposes. Though, the wild version - Angelica sylvestris or A. montanum, would have been used when herbalism first found it of use.

Culinary uses of Angelica

When you think of angelica, you only think of the candied cake decoration, but angelica has many other culinary uses. The young stems of Angelica Archangelica are the part that is candied. Young angelica stems will impart their unique Muscat flavour when added to tart fruits and berries, it will reduce the acidity. Add angelica to jams it is exceptionally good. Try adding ginger to angelica, even the seed can be used when making biscuits. Fresh young leaves can be added to hops, to make stimulating “bitters”.

Only use young leaves of the Angelica archangelica, as older leaves are more course and stringy.

By David Hughes - info@gardenseeker.com 

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