One competing legend about angelica claims that a monk named the herb during the Black Death after an angel appeared and showed him that it could cure the plague. Another maintains the herb is named after St. Michael the Archangel because it blooms on the saint’s feast day, May 8th.
Angelica has a longstanding reputation as a protector against evil. In Medieval Europe, peasant children wore angelica leaf necklaces to protect them from illness and witchcraft. The herb was also sprinkled around the house, inside and out, to ward off evil. Added to your bath water, angelica will reputedly remove any curses or spells that someone has placed on you.
In the garden angelica is a biennial, growing as high as 2.5 meters, and hardy to Zone 3. In the first year the plant has no stem, but produces a cluster of divided leaves growing from a robust root. The herb is also known as wild parsnip because of this root and wild celery because of its bright green, celery-like foliage. The herb is best grown from seed and will thrive in rich, moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil.
Dried angelica is subject to insect infestations and should be stored in sealed containers. The root must be harvested soon after the seeds ripen, as it will quickly rot in the ground after the plant
has matured. Do not wild craft angelica, as the wild herb is too easily confused with its deadly look-alike, water hemlock.Medicinally, both Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine recommend angelica for arthritis and respiratory problems caused by colds and flu. It is a warming and tonic herb, useful for indigestion, gas and colic. An old remedy recommends slowly chewing the stalks until flatulence is relieved. Combine with coltsfoot and white horehound for bronchial problems and with chamomile for indigestion, flatulence and loss of appetite. The leaves are used in the bath to stimulate the skin.
Angelica salve is helpful in cases of allergic rhinitis and sinusitis because it is warming and it dissolves mucus. Apply it twice daily to the area of the para-nasal sinuses, forehead, root of the nose, nose, cheeks and angle of the jaw. It also improves circulation to peripheral parts of the body. Under no circumstances should angelica be taken during pregnancy.
A recent clinical study on SagaPro, has shown this natural product made from Angelica by SagaMedica in Iceland, to be effective against nocturia in those with low or weakened bladder capacity. The placebo controlled study was recently published in the Scandinavian Journal of Urology and Nephrology.
For those subject to indigestion, the following makes a good homemade stomach bitters. Take 20-30 drops before meals.
Take one handful each of the following herbs (preferably fresh):
· Angelica root
· 1 cinnamon stick
· Grain alcohol, brandy or vodka
Fill a mason jar halfway with the finely chopped herbs. Add the cinnamon stick and pour in enough alcohol to fill the jar. Close it tightly and let the mixture steep for 2-3 weeks, shaking it occasionally. Strain the bitters and then place into dropper bottles.
Angelica’s unusual flavor is a musky, bittersweet mixture of celery and anise. The dried leaves make a fragrant addition to a potpourri. The fresh leaves may be added to salads, soups and stews. The dried, ground root has a stronger, earthier taste than the leaves and the Norwegians bake bread with it. However, the most common use of angelica in the kitchen involves the stem. In Iceland and Lapland the stems are eaten raw with butter. The young stalks can also be braised like celery and served with a white sauce.
Angelica-Wrapped Baked Halibut
· 2 medium halibut steaks
· ½ cup of basil pesto
· Enough angelica leaves to cover both steaks
Place one halibut steak on top of the other with a “sandwich” of pesto between them. Spread the rest of the pesto over the top and bottom of the steaks and wrap the steaks in the angelica leaves and secure with twine or toothpicks. Bake in a preheated oven at 190ºC for 30 minutes. Check for doneness by unwrapping some angelica leaves and cutting into the fish. If it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, it is done. Spread the pesto evenly over the steaks before serving.