Posted in Botany, Plant This | Comments Off on Angelica

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) is a big ol’ gorgeous creature in the carrot family that has been used to flavor liqueurs since the Middle Ages. If you’re going to grow it, be sure to get this particular species. (Get the seeds here.)  There are other ornamental angelicas sold in garden centers, but they can be mildly toxic. It’s actually fairly easy to grow from seed, and I’ve had good luck planting them in fall after the rains start.  Just be sure you sow them where you actually want them to grow:  like other members of the carrot family, angelica has a long taproot and doesn’t like to be transplanted. Angelica is happy in the shade and it likes damp soil, but I’ve ignored it all summer and it survived fine without extra water. The plant is a biennial, producing only leaves the first year and blooming and going to seed the second year.  If you’re really into angelica, plant it two years in a row and always let some go to seed so you’ll have a fresh crop every year.

The roots and seeds are used to flavor liqueur and vermouth.  Although distillers love to keep their recipes a secret, take a swig of Strega, Chartreuse, Galliano, and other such Italian and French herbal liqueurs and see if you don’t taste the indescribably fresh, bright, green flavor of angelica.  The best way to use it in a cocktail is to chop off a thick stem and mix it into a simple syrup or infuse it in vodka for no more than 24 hours along with other fresh herbs and citrus.  (Give fresh, green herbs too much time in vodka and you’ll start to get really nasty off flavors.  Experiment with longer infusion times at your own peril.)