Angelica is a truly northern species. It grows wild all over Scandinavia, thriving in damp, cool conditions. More Herbs From Scandinavia – Angelica, is our second last article about Scandinavian herbs in this series.
Angelica (archangelica) is said to be the only plant grown for food by the white settlers on Greenland in the early Middle Ages, and was a common plant in Viking-age gardens. However, it’s hard to believe that angelica was ever eaten in massive quantities – its taste would forbid it. But the herb definitely has its uses.
An even bigger plant than lovage, angelica grows to an impressive 3 meters, with huge, lime green flower heads. The young stalks can be candied, while the tender, young shoots, thinly sliced and in small quantities, can give an extraordinarily exquisite taste to anything with rhubarb. The root and stalk lend flavor to schnapps.
Buying and storing herbs
In Scandinavia, the essential herbs are all fresh, and are used abundantly during the summer months, or during the short spring season in the case of wild herbs. The rest of the year, cultivated herbs can be bought fresh. Dried herbs are just not an option, as the texture and taste are altered too much to be an alternative, the only exception being thyme, which is used both fresh and dried.
Fresh herbs will keep for a couple of days in a plastic bag in the fridge. Some of the herbs are hard to obtain outside Scandinavia, but I recommend that you grow your own,
Rhubarb soup with angelica
This cold soup is delicious served with cardamom or vanilla ice cream, and a dusting of cinnamon. You can substitute six rose geranium leaves or a small bunch lemon verbena if you cannot get hold of angelica.
If you are at the beginning of the strawberry season, you can add some sliced strawberries just before serving.
2 bunches of rhubarb (approx. 14 stalks)
10cm piece of angelica
1 liter water
Juice and thinly pared zest of lemon
1 vanilla pd, split
For the syrup: 600g sugar
Cut the rhubarb into thin, slanted slices, or thin matchsticks. Be sure to use the bottom part of the stalks, these are often discarded which is a shame. Cut the angelica into very thin slivers.
Boil together the syrup ingredients until the sugar has dissolved. Pour over the rhubarb and angelica in a bowl. The heat will tenderize the fruit sufficiently, leaving the rhubarb a little chewy and delicious. Leave to cool and the soup is ready to serve.
More Herbs From Scandinavia – Angelica, written by Tor Kjolberg