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Faroese Herbs

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One of the most common plants I saw growing wild on my recent trip to the Faroe Islands was Angelica. Whether it survived the ice age here, as it did in Iceland, I am not yet sure. But there is evidence that it was harvested by the Vikings on Iceland and used for trade. Angelica was so valuable during the medieval period in Iceland that there was a specific law to prevent Angelica theft in the first law book.

The whole plant has been used medicinally for centuries across the world, as an expectorant and for stomach upsets, and there is some evidence that it acts as a mild stimulant. Historically, it was held in high esteem as a cure for all ills, blood purification and to ward off the plague. The flavour of Angelica is slightly musky and it has a long history of being used to flavour alcohols and liqueurs, being a key ingedient in Vermouth and Gin. 


This picture shows Angelica growing wild in Torshovan, behind the other ubiquitous wild plant, Marsh Marigolds (or King cups ... Caltha palustris). Marsh marigolds have been used medicinally, to cure warts and fits, and the leaves can be eaten like spinach, but the whole plant is an irritant and best avoided. It was used historically in May Day festivals.

The other surprise herb for me on the Faroes was Sweet Cicely, with its dainty, fresh green leaves and sweet smelling flowers. The whole plant is edible; the leaves are good in salads, with a fresh aniseedy / liquorice flavour, the roots can be used like parsnips, it is a good natural sweetener and combines especially well with rhubarb. Gerard, agreeing with Culpeper on it's value for lifting the spirits, states that the roots, boiled and dressed with oil and vinegar are   “…very good for old people that are dull and without courage; it rejoiceth and comforteth the heart and increaseth their lust and strength.” It is a key ingredient in Chartreuse liqueur.

Medicinally, it was, like Angelica, used as a plague herb. It has expectorant properties and is a mildly stimulating anti-spasmodic. Tea made from the leaves has been used to relieve period pains. The roots anti-septic properties, in a decoction, have been used for snake bites and as a poultice on septic wounds. the sweet smelling seeds can be chewed and were ground and added to beeswax polish for their perfume.





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