Friday, October 15, 2010

Sweet Cicely/Sødskærm

Myrrhis odorata

The Sweet Cicely has got many names, British Myrrh, Sweet chervil, The Roman plant, Cow chervil, Shepherd's needle, Smooth Cicely, Sweet bracken, Sweet fern, Sweet humlock. Sødskærm is its Danish name, but it is also called Spansk kørvel or Aniskål. The plant has a flavour rather like anise with a scent like lovage and it is very attractive to bees. All parts of the plant are edible and were used for food in the old days. The old herbalist describes the plant as 'so harmless you cannot use it amiss.'

The name Myrrhis odorata derives from the Greek word for perfume because of its myrrh-like smell. Odorata means sweet-scented. Sweet Cicely derives from the mountains in Central Europe where it is a wild plant. Today it is feral in northern Europe.

Sweet Cicely is an old cloister-plant. The monks brought it to the North from Central Europe in the Middle Ages, and they used it as well for food as for medicine. Leaves and stalks are good in fruit soups and as a green sprinkle on food and as a spice in marmalade. The old Danish name aniskål (anis-cabbage) was given to it because it was used as an addition in spring to dishes made of the rest of the winter's curly kale.
The stalks were candied, and they were also used in stewed rhubarbs since it lessened the strong taste. A drink can be made which resembles the Greek alcohol Ouzo. The oil from the seeds = anetholoil is used in Danish sweets named 'Kongen af Danmarks bolsjer'. Essence can be made by the flowers, the seed, the root and the green leaves. Pour alcohol over and make it draw for some days. This gives a fine light green drink with a piquant taste of anise.

In medicine the monks used the plant for digestive problems and for anemia in elderly people. The leaves were used as an incense for asthma.

photo 250508: grethe bachmann, Gammel Ry, Mid Jutland


Teresa Evangeline said...

I love the flavor of anise, sort of like licorice. Isn't it an amazing world, full of natural wonders, and all those uses for every single plant. Just amazing. Thank you for opening my eyes even more to everything around me.

Thyra said...

Hej Teresa! Yes, anise has such a lovely flavor. I drink licorice tea each day. The English name Sweet Cicely is very suitable for this herb.