Thursday, 6 April 2017


“Love is like a beautiful flower, which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same.” - Helen Keller 

Cicely or sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) is a herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the celery family Apiaceae. It is one of two accepted species in the genus Myrrhis. The genus name Myrrhis derives from the Greek word “myrrhis” [μυρρίς], an aromatic oil from Asia with a characteristic smell. The Latin species name odorata means scented. All parts of the plant are fragrant.

 Myrrhis odorata is a tall herbaceous perennial plant growing to 2 m tall, depending on circumstances. The leaves are fern-like, 2-4-pinnate, finely divided, feathery, up to 50 cm long, with whitish patches near the rachis. The plant is softly hairy and smells strongly of aniseed when crushed. The flowers are creamy-white, about 2–4 mm across, produced in large umbels. The flowering period extends from May to June. The fruits are slender, 15–25 mm long and 3–4 mm broad.

 Sweet cicely is native to mountains of southern and central Europe, from the Pyrenees to the Caucasus. It has been introduced and naturalised elsewhere in cultivated areas, woodland margins, roadside verges, river banks and grassland. The herb loves partial shade and will happily grow under trees, and in damp, though not waterlogged, spots. Sow in autumn (the seed needs winter cold to germinate). Sweet cicely is not one to grow permanently in pots as it has a long root that likes to burrow down.

 In fertile soils it grows readily from seed, and may be increased by division in spring or autumn. Its leaves are used as a herb, either raw or cooked, with a rather strong taste reminiscent of anise. The roots and seeds also are edible. Additionally, it has a history of use as a medicinal herb. Like its relatives anise, fennel, and caraway, it can also be used to flavour akvavit. Its essential oils are dominated by anethole.

If you aren’t immediately keen on the flavour of sweet cicely, give it time as it can grow on you. The herb also has two other fine qualities: It reduces the acidity of other ingredients, giving the sensation of sweetening, which means that when adding sweet cicely to rhubarb, gooseberries and cooking apples you can use less sugar than usual. It also complements other herbs when used in combination, bringing out their flavour, while remaining in the background itself. You definitely need to experiment with this herb!

Sweet cicely is a prolific self-seeder, which is either a delightful bonus or a nuisance depending on your situation and disposition – if the latter, just pick off the large seeds as they form: They are useful chopped into home-made fudge or crumble topping, or may be used in baking much like aniseed is.

In the language of flowers, a sprig of sweet cicely means: “You are humble but your presence is commanding”. A flowering sprig implies: “Your sweet nature matches your beauty.”

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

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