How to Identify Sweet Cicely
Could be confused with
Cows Parsley (Anthriscus Sylvestris) very easily, the leaves are almost identical although Sweet Cicely leaves are a little softer to touch, the flower bunches of Sweet Cicely are smaller than those from cows parsley and the seeds are more elongated and will turn black.
Hemlock (Conium Maculatum) looks similar in leaf structure and flower, however it grows to a larger size and has purple blotches over its stem which Sweet Cicely does not.
The easiest way to tell apart from these two is from the smell of aniseed as you break the stem and seed.
Range and Distribution
Found in the UK and the most temperate regions of Europe, America and Asia
Garden edges, sunny spots, hedgerow edges
Sweet cicely is a perennial growing to 1m high and 1m across in full bloom.
It has a rounded hollow stem with down hairs all over, giving it a slight velvety feel.
The flowers are white, but can be slightly pink on occasion; they’re based in medium sized long stalked umbels 2-4cms across with 5-12 umbels coming from each plant.
The fruit/seeds are elongated rugby ball shaped from 1-2cm in length, beginning green and turning black as they mature.
The leaves are up to 30cm long and appear fern like and are 1-3 times pinnate.
A thick pale yellow parsnip like root grows to 20cms down.
Root: Eaten raw thinly sliced in salads and other dishes, Boiled similar to parsnips
Stem/leaves: Syrup, Candied, Salads, Sliced in all dishes, Sparkling wine, Lemonade, As a straw
Seeds when green: Dried and powdered, As seasoning, As flavor boost, Candied
A tonic can be made out of the whole plant that will aid digestion and will promote an appetite. The volatile oils and flavonoid extracted through alcohol infusion can act as a blood purifier.
It’s also referenced that an infusion of the roots in tea will give boring people a lift of life and boost of confidence.
This is the perfect plant for eating whilst on a walk, it gives you the feeling of a sugar boost, the seeds are easy to carry and keep nibbling on.
Tips and Observations
Although there’s a poisoness look-alike to this plant I always advise beginner foragers to find this plant as the aniseed smell and flavor makes it easily distinguishable from every other plant in the Umbellifer family – apart from fennel of course.