Sweet Cicely and Rhubarb

DSCF7795One of the earliest pickings from the garden is rhubarb. Technically a vegetable but more often used as a fruit, it’s tart, tangy taste is an aperitif for sweeter fruits to follow, once the days grow warmer. The astringent flavour of rhubarb calls for the addition of a lot of sugar to make it palatable but since I try to avoid using too much sugar I searched for an alternative.


Sweet Cicely is a culinary herb, traditionally grown in British herb gardens close to the kitchen door, where its pretty fern-like leaves were at hand for sweetening tart fruit such as rhubarb. Used in many savory as well as sweet dishes, it gives a delightful anise flavour and helps to save almost half the sugar needed in a recipe. Its seeds can be used instead of cloves in apple pies, or ground and added to spice mixtures.

Sounded just what I was looking for. So I purchased seeds and added it to my garden.



Fast forward twelve months and I’m ready to harvest the pretty leaves and take them into the kitchen, along with a bunch of freshly picked rhubarb.

I combined the finely chopped leaves with the rhubarb to make a Sweet Cicely Rhubarb Crumble Cake which I served warm with custard and I’m happy to say that the result was delicious!


Sweet Cicely Rhubarb Crumble Cake

8oz whole Spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 oz butter
2 oz soft brown sugar
1 large egg
4 fl oz milk

1 lb rhubarb
1 oz soft brown sugar
4 tbl sweet cicely

2 oz plain flour
2 oz oats
1 oz soft brown sugar
2 oz butter

Cream butter and sugar together. Whisk in the egg.

Add dry ingredients. Spoon into 8in cake tin.

Mix rhubarb & sugar in pan. Cook for 5 – 10 mins. Drain then stir in Sweet Cicely. Spoon over cake mix.

Rub topping ingredients together and sprinkle over cake.

Bake for 40 minutes at 350F.

Recipe Adapted from Mountain Innovations.


About Jane Fowler

We are working towards a sustainable lifestyle, homeschooling our children, growing all our own food and creating art. Join us in our journey, learning with us along the way.
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5 Responses to Sweet Cicely and Rhubarb

  1. violicious says:

    I was just looking for a new recipe for all this rhubarb hanging out all over the place around here and while I do not have any sweet cecily I do have fennel seeds which may be a good replacement and the crew of smalls around here love that flavor. Thanks for the recipe!


  2. nruit says:

    Never knew about sweet Cicely. I will have to look for some!


  3. df says:

    I’ve never heard of Sweet Cicely, though it looks familiar. What a delightful find and I love your recipe!


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