Saturday, May 29, 2010

Angelica Guiness Book of World Records?

So is there a category in the Guiness Book of World Records for the largest Angelica plant? If so, I think I should enter.

I've never quite understood the fascination for big vegetables. I look at the gimongous (wicked big) pumpkins and baseball bat size zuchini and don't really get it. Yes, there is some kind of morbid fascination with a 400 or 500 pound vegetable, but to spend all season nurturing some behemoth and then try and cart it off to the state fair for a ribbon seems a bit odd to me.

But having said that, I have a monster angelica (Angelica archangelica) growing and think it deserves some sort of blue ribbon in the monster plant world.

Angelica is known to grow large, and often reaches 6 feet, but mine is close to 7 feet and it is only the end of May. Known as an old medicinal herb to stimulate the immune system, it also has an anesthetic quality and the seeds and roots are often used with wormwood in making absinthe and the seeds are an ingredient in vermouth and chartreuse. I love the way the flowers seem to burst out of alien like pods that grow on the stems, fascinating to watch and a wonderful addition to the garden for its scent and amazing presence.

But back to the giant in the yard...I rescued this plant from some leftover plants at the store last year. It had overwintered outside in a pot and barely looked alive last Spring. Never being able to throw away a plant that has even a little life in it, I brought it home and planted it in my new garden, which had plenty of space to fill. It responded beautifully and I had a large, 5 foot plant last year which was healthy and strong but didn't flower. Wondering if it would come back this year, didn't I see it emerge in early Spring and by the end of April was as large as it was last year. Here it is in early Spring at the back left hand side of the picture along the fence...

Would it bloom this year? By the end of May it is now covered in over a dozen flower heads, just popping out all over. A recent hail storm knocked down some of them and I thought of trying to stake it, but I don't have anything near tall enough to stake it to.

Although commonly known as a biennial, angelica is really a short-lived perennial and dies after it's flowering year, which means this plant will die after this year. That makes me rather sad, so I'm trying to enjoy the plant in all its majesty this year. Candied angelica stem is a Victorian classic, and there are all sorts of recipes for using the roots, leaves, and seeds which I think I will try this summer in honor of this incredible plant.

Has anyone ever cooked or used their angelica? If so, please feel free to post your experiences or recipes. And can anyone else vie for the blue ribbon prize for biggest angelica this year? I'm awarding it to myself until I see a bigger one!


Gloria said...

Wow! that is one huge herb. It is really pretty.

Benjamin Vogt said...

I have one that is huge now too! I didn't know they die after the bloom year, how sad! What recipes do you suggest so I can take advantage of it before it dies?