Cicely, also known as sweet cicely, is a herb that belongs to the Apiaceae family. It is native to Central Europe but is also found sparingly in parts of Asia and North America. The herb is a perennial plant and can grow up to 2 meters tall. Leaves of the plant are finely divided and feathery. The herb bears white flowers and its seeds are quite slender.
The herb has a delicate flavor that complements a wide range of dishes. In addition, the plant is also ornamental and the large decorative plant usually forms that center of a flower garden. Sweet cicely is very cold tolerant and is a good choice for colder regions. It does not fare well in hot and humid climates.
Cecily herb is very easy to grow and is one of those herbs that can be planted and grown at home, on the kitchen sill. The soil usually required for a healthy growth is rich and loamy, with a neutral pH. Since the plant thrives in cold regions, its plantation and cultivation is usually restricted to those. Hot climates do not suit the plant and it tends to die and wither away easily. The plant requires minimum care when it is growing and its water needs are also average.
Leaves of cicely have a rather strong taste that is akin to that of anise. Mainly the herb is used in German and Scandinavian cooking. It is, like its relatives caraway, anise and fennel, used as a flavoring agent for akvavit, a traditional flavored spirit produced in the Scandinavian region since the 15th century.
In Northern Europe, the herb is used in a variety of dishes and frequently appears in blends of fine herbs. Fresh leaves of the herb can be added to a range of dishes. These can either form a part of the base for dishes like stews and soups or used as a garnish. Dried leaves of the herb are used more-or-less like dried parsley. Seeds of the plant have more flavor than the leaves and can be added to many preparations ranging from baking items to curries. The best way to ensure maximum flavor is to toast the seeds before use.
Some popular preparations where cicely features as an important ingredient are:
Apples and Sweet Cicely - This popular British dessert mixes apples with cicely, sugar and other preferred ingredients. The preparation is often served during Christmas dinner.
Cicely Schnapps - Cicely or sweet cicely schnapps is a sweet, very aromatic and slightly spicy preparation. It has a refreshing taste and can be consumed on its own or added to meats and vegetables for added taste.
Rhubarb and Cicely Strudel - A wonderfully aromatic and tasteful recipe, the strudel is a popular preparation and is can be served at any time of the day.
Lemon, Thyme and Butter Cake with Cicely - A smooth and velvety preparation, the cake has a very pleasant taste. In European cuisine, the dessert is often served with sweet cicely syrup.