Wild angelica – very nearly an Archangel.

Wild angelica – very nearly an Archangel.

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Wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris) growing along a damp woodland path

This tall stately beauty is wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris), an untamed relative of Angelica archangelica or garden angelica.¬† It is very similar¬† to the garden angelica – not quite as potent medicinally though just as edible. The name ‘angelica’ derives from the belief that an archangel revealed its many medicinal virtues to a 14th century monk. ‘Sylvestris’ comes from its preference for the woodland habitat ( means ‘of the forest’ in latin).

It is a biennial plant so the examples in my photos are packed with seeds which will produce new, fully mature flowering plants in 2 years time.

Medicinally, it is very similar to garden angelica and can be used in the same manner, observing the cautions also.

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Angelica sylvestris with my dog for scale

The young leaves, stems, and young shoots can be eaten raw though they are best used as a flavourful addition to salads, not as a base vegetable. The seeds can be picked and dried and used as an aromatic flavouring.

The leaves, young shoots, stems and roots can be cooked in stews and soups, again as an addition rather than main ingredient.

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Distinctive purple stems of Angelica sylvestris

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Elder like leaves of Angelica sylvestris

It doesn’t store particularly well (apart from the dried seeds) so is best used fresh or the younger stems can be chopped up and candied by boiling them in sugar syrup. The stems leaves, seeds or roots are common ingredients in foragers liqueurs and as a flavouring for spirits etc. Check out this heavenly sounding mix of 22 different wild herb gin.

 

Caution: wild angelica belongs to the Apiaceae or carrot family which also contains plants that are deadly poisonous! Hemlock and several other very poisonous plants look extremely similar to wild angelica and grow in similar habitats so positive identification is crucial. Do not pick if you are not 100% certain of your plant – if in doubt, move on and live to forage another day.

All parts of the plant can induce the skin to become very sensitive to sunlight so use sparingly as a food or medicine.

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