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Sweet Cicely
Sweet Cicely

The best summer herb? You've probably never heard of it Add to ...

What: A herb from the parsley family that has fuzzy, fern-like leaves. The entire cicely plant is edible - from its seed pods to the roots. The pods have a stronger licorice flavour, while the leaves have a milder, fennel-like taste.

When: Pods are usually in season between the end of June and early July, according to David Cohlmeyer of Cookstown Greens in Cookstown, Ont. This year, his pods came in early, but you may still be able to get them in other parts of the country. The leaves are available all summer.

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How: Andrea Carlson, executive chef of Bishop's Restaurant in Vancouver, currently has a ravioli of boudin noir with quail egg on the menu, garnished with sweet cicely pods. She offers other suggestions for how to use them:

"One thing that's super-popular and kind of cute is to use them as a garnish by dipping the whole cluster of sweet cicely pods in tempura batter. Deep-fry that really quickly, and it's just a really nice, bright-flavoured item.

"I also love mixing them in other things, like a Waldorf salad, with a small dice of an apple, whatever nut you have available to you, and slice sweet cicely pod in with that. It just adds a sweet brightness to a nice, chopped raw, fruity, vegetable-type salad.

"The roots have a little bit more of an earthy flavour. They are quite mild. We would candy it and mix it in with ice cream, sort of like you would with candied ginger.

"The leaves you can absolutely put in salads. They're a little on the hairy side. I don't think they'd be particularly tasty if you were to cook them, like sauté them or anything like that. But you just use them raw for that really fresh, green flavour in small amounts."

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Follow on Twitter: @wencyleung

 

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