Sweet Cicely

This afternoon, it was one of the pleasures of my job to drive across the white peak – the most beautiful part (I think) of the Peak District  – particularly at this time of year with everything so bright green and lots and lots of lambs in fields outlined by the limestone walls.

Sweet Cicely, in my experince, is quite fussy where it grows – many of the wild food books that I have consulted says it grows ‘in the north’, but I have noticed that it grows really well in limestone areas  the Yorkshire Dales and the White Peak particularly.  So, as I was driving across beautiful Derbyshire and along the roadsides were clouds of Sweet Cicely.

If you know your (edible) Cow Parsley from your (very poisionous and quite simular) Hemlock (quite important, as you might realise!) then you might have a chance at recognising Sweet Cicely.  The leaves are a slightly different green and the flowers are creamy and frothy rather than white and lacy and its smells and tastes) amazingly aniseed-y.

Well today, in my business suit and my court siletto shoes I parked up on the roadside and hopped out and filled my lunchbox with Sweet Cicely leaves.  For dinner this evening I had palnned to cook north african flavoured lamb meatballs – so added about 4 leaves chopped well to the cinnamon, cumin, corridaner, saffron and tumeric that I was already using.  The meatballs tasted great!

Sweet Cicely

The books all say that Sweet Cicely is widespread in the North and less common in the South, but in my experince it seems to very much prefer limestone country.  I have seen it in abundance in the North Yorkshire Moors area (in the hedgerows, not on the moors themselves!) and yesterday we had a lovely day in the on/off rain in Dovedale where there was more of it than there was of Cow Parsley.

Aromatic and sweetly smelling of aniseed / liquorish its hard to mistake for anything else.  The leaves can be chopped and added to salad or leaves and stems boiled.  My favourite is to use it to cook with first gooseberries in place of sugar.  Aparently, in the style of Comfrey Fritters, it is also sometimes cooked in France, dipped in thin batter and deep fried.