Tuesday, May 12, 2009


God's teeth I had the devil's own time getting this baby posted. I think my rough draft gave Blogger heartburn or some darn thing.

NOTE: I used three different books as references. Each one had a slightly different take on what to use when. One reference uses leaves for the infusion (tea) preparation. Another uses crushed seeds for the tea. I guess you use what you have on hand and make the best of it.

If you’re a shrub that can reach over six feet tall, spread about four feet wide with beautiful globes of seed heads you just might be angelica. In China it’s called Dong qui, in Korea it’s Cham Dangwi, in Europe it’s known as garden angelica: these are just three of the nearly sixty cultivars. My sources recommend sticking with the garden raised cultivars unless you are very sure about a wild plant. The wild angelica can resemble European water hemlock; a very bad news poisonous plant.

Technically angelica is a biannual. A gardener with time to keep the seed heads trimmed may be able to keep the shrub going almost indefinitely as a perennial. Those beautiful seed heads that are so wonderful for dried flower arrangements or as an ingredient for herbal teas can also be a pain for the gardener to keep up with. Dead head faithfully or be prepared to weed faithfully. One angelica can be beautiful. Several hundred plants is overkill. The plant is cold hardy, can be grown in full sun or partial shade and will tolerate dry conditions with poor soil. It’s actually a good way to control the size of the plant. If you don’t have room for a six or seven footer in its full glory, try planting your seeds in the worst corner of the garden you can find.

Leaf, seed, root or branch; whether it’s your taste buds or your body you could learn to love this “angel.”

Young stems or seeds can be simmered to create a simple sugar syrup to flavor drinks, fruit punches or even served over ice cream. Young leaves can be picked and used fresh for teas or dried for later use. Seeds can be harvested while they’re still green and used fresh or frozen. The older seed heads can be dried for flower arrangements or rubbed out of the seed heads and stored in the freezer for next years planting. The root is collected in the gall of the plants first year. It can be used fresh or dried and powdered for later use.

The flavor is often compared to licorice and is said to be sweet then sharp. To be honest, I haven’t tried it myself and given the size of our yard the angel sounds too much like the elder we took out two years ago. It was a beautiful shrub; it was just too large for the space we have.

Traditionally angelica preparations have been used to aid digestion and to ease intestinal problems. European herbal texts still recommend angelica to treat congestion from bronchitis, flu and the common cold. The most common preparation is a decoction made by boiling the powdered roots. The liquid is strained and drunk as a tea. Medical uses can include cough syrups, teas or the root that has been dried and powdered. I think I draw the line at making a poultice out of the leaves and applying it to my chest if or when I have my next case of bronchitis.

It’s often included in herb gardens along with chamomile, hops, valerian, and Melissa (aka lemon balm.)

Angelica is one of the ingredients in the traditional Carmelite Water. This is a revised recipe that uses witch hazel instead of vodka.


1 cup lemon balm leaves
1 cup angelica leaves
The peel of one lemon
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
2 whole nutmegs crushed
2 tsp crushed cinnamon
2 cups witch hazel extract1 cup orange flower water

You can substitute orange essential oil mixed in the water if you don’t have a middle-eastern deli nearby where you can get the orange flower water. Add about a teaspoon of orange essential oil per cup of water to the mixture.

Chop the leaves and bruise with the lemon peel. Crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle. You can also place the seeds between layers of cloth and crush with a hammer. Combine the herbs and spices with the witch hazel and keep in a sealed jar for two days. Stir in the orange flower water and keep in a sealed jar. Shake daily for two or three weeks. Strain into a pump style bottle. At one time Carmelite water was said to good for everything from gout to the vapors.

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