Other Names: Angélique (French); garden angelica; herb of the angels.

General Description: Angelica (Angelica archangelica) is one of the most flamboyant-looking herbs, with long, thick, hollow, pale green, celery-like stems supporting huge umbrellas of greenish white flowers above bright green, serrated, flat leaves. The roots, stems, leaves, and seeds of angelica are all edible and share an earthy, bittersweet, warm flavor reminiscent of licorice and juniper. Angelica is believed to have originated in northern Europe, particularly the area of Lapland, Iceland, and Russia. In Lapland, angelica stalks are stripped off the central stem and eaten as a delicacy. Angelica is grown extensively in Europe, where its stems are commonly candied and used as an attractive light, bright green decoration for cakes, cookies, and ice cream. Candied angelica is especially popular in Sicily, where it is traditional for cassata, a cake layered with sweetened ricotta studded with candied fruit and covered with bittersweet chocolate icing. The seeds and roots are the source of an essential oil that flavors ice cream, candy, baked goods, puddings, and liqueurs. French angélique liqueur, drunk over crushed ice as a digestive, can also be used for cocktails, sorbets, and desserts.

Season: Fresh angelica is best early in its season, late spring, when the shoots are young and softly colored. Candied angelica will be most easily found in late winter before the holiday baking season.

Purchase and Avoid: There is limited availability of fresh or candied angelica, much of which is exported from France and Italy. Sometimes imitations made of green jelly are passed off as real candied angelica stem, which should have visible strings running through it like celery and a bright vegetal green color. Buy fresh angelica in plant form from herb growers.

Storage: Store candied angelica airtight in a dry place up to 3 years.

Serving Suggestions: Press decorative bits of candied angelica into the tops of shortbread cookies before baking. Burn angelica seeds to perfume a room. Make angelica and mint sandwiches by combining chopped candied angelica and mint leaves with enough mayonnaise to bind and spreading it on whole-grain bread.

Food Affinities: Absinthe, apricot, Bénédictine, candied citron, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, eggs, gin, lemon, orange, pineapple, rhubarb, ricotta cheese, strawberry, vermouth.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com