Photo by Doronenko (CC BY 2.5).
Scientific Name: Angelica archangelica
Common Names: Angelica, Garden Angelica, Norwegian Angelica
Angelica is native to the colder Northern countries of Europe including Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
Angelica is primarily grown for its edible stems and leaf stalks but the roots, seeds and leaves are also edible. A common way to prepare the stems is to crystallise them in sugar syrup to make candied angelica sweets. The leaves and stems of angelica can be chopped up and used as a flavouring in preserves and are also particularly good added to omelettes and fish dishes. The roots are primarily harvested for medicinal uses, traditionally in Austria a tea made from them is drunk to ease stomach upsets and fight cold and flu. The roots and seeds are also commonly used to flavour gin. Angelica plants are highly aromatic with a scent that is a mix of juniper and musk, the essential oils extracted from the leaves can be used to make perfume. The Saami people of Scandinavia used the hollow stems to make flute-like musical instruments. In their second year during Summer angelica plants will produce a large, upright flowering stalk with umbels that contain masses of small greenish-yellow flowers. The flowers of angelica and apiaceae family plants in general are great for attracting the nectar-feeding adult stages of beneficial predatory insect species such as hoverflies and lacewings to your garden.
Angelica will suffer from heat-stress if planted in full sun, so instead choose a location that receives light shade if growing in cooler climates or heavy shade if growing in warmer climates. Angelica grows best in a free-draining loam soil rich in organic matter. If your garden soil has too much sand or clay or is lacking in fertility you can improve it by placing down a layer of compost or well-rotted cow manure prior to planting angelica. Angelica requires constant soil moisture to grow well, water plants regularly and mulch around them to help retain soil moisture and keep their root systems cool.
When to Sow:
In cold and mountainous regions of Australia sow angelica seeds from mid Spring to early Summer. In temperate regions of Australia sow angelica during Spring. In subtropical regions of Australia sow angelica seeds from late Winter to late Spring. Angelica is unlikely to grow well in the tropics.
How to Sow:
Sow angelica seeds 6mm deep, but no deeper as they require some light to reach them in order to germinate. For seedlings with maximum vigour sow several seeds per planting hole and thin to the healthiest plants after several weeks of growth. Space angelica 60cm apart when sowing direct or planting out starts to give their root systems room to expand and allow airflow between plants. Cold stratification is required for angelica seeds to germinate. To cold stratify the seeds place them in a zip lock bag with a small amount of damp (but not soaking wet) sand and leave in the fridge for a week prior to sowing. Cold stratifying will trick the angelica seeds into believing that they have experienced a cold Winter, breaking dormancy and allowing germination to occur.
Angelica seeds are notoriously slow to germinate taking between 1 and 3 months for the seedlings to emerge. Ensure that constant moisture is provided until the seeds have germinated and the young plants are established.
Time to Harvest:
Angelica takes a long time to establish, but you should be able to begin harvesting leaves and stems from your plants 6 to 12 months after sowing. Angelica will not grow roots or a central stalk that is large enough to harvest until its second year of growth.