Sweet Cicely

(Myrrhis odorata) It is one of the plants that are supposed to bloom on Old Christmas Eve, so it was said in the Isle of Man, where it is called "myrrh" (Moore). A watch is still sometimes kept for the flowering. According to tradition, the bloom only lasts for an hour (Garrad). Another superstition about Sweet Cicely was that it increased "the lust and strength of the old" (Camp). It is a symbol of sincerity (Leyel. 1937). But it really does have its uses - most parts are edible, the leaves and roots being used in salads, the leaves raw, and the roots boiled and sliced (Rohde. 1936). They have a mild aniseed flavour, ideal for flavouring stewed fruits like gooseberries and plums (Mabey. 1972). It is apparently one of the main ingredients of Chartreuse (Clair). The seeds too are edible, at least in the green state, before they become black and hard; children like to chew them, for they taste like liquorice (Foster).

The whole plant is very attractive to bees, and was often rubbed over the inside of hives to induce swarms to enter (Northcote). In popular medicine it is taken for flatulence and any digestive ailment (Clair), and is a remedy for chest troubles or bronchial colds (Gibson), and is still used to lower blood pressure (Schauenberg & Paris).

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