As I don't like anise-like herbs, cicely is definitely not amongst my favourite spices!
Cicely plants in flower
Ripening cicely fruits
Cicely leaves and flowers
Cicely is a common garden plant in parts of Northern and Western Europe, mainly cultivated in Scandinavia.
Leaves, mostly used fresh. The unripe fruits are a good substitute for anise.
Apiaceae (parsley family).
A strong fragrance reminiscent of liquorice or anise, with a sweet taste (especially the stem). Both fragrance and taste are strongest in the unripe seeds. The fruits and leaves of several aromatic plants from the parsley family share a fragrance often referred to as "anise-like". Of this group, cicely is the strongest, anise slightly weaker and fennel the weakest.
The English name "cicely" originates from the obscure Greek plant name siseli. German süßdolde "sweet umbel" refers to both the sweet taste and the umbel-shaped flower cluster.
The botanical genus name myrrhis derives from Greek myrrhis which denotes both an unidentified plant and an aromatic oil from Western Asia and is probably related to Greek myron "balm". The scientific species name odoratus is Latin for "scented".
Comparisons with chervil appear in the German myrrhenkerbel "myrrh-chervil" and translations of "Spanish chervil" that occur in many languages, e.g. Norwegian Spansk kjørvel, as the plant originates from North-Western Europe.
Cicely has relatively little importance in today's cooking. Since it is tolerant to cold it is a useful herb for cooks in Scandinavia, where it provides fresh fragrant leaves nearly all year even in Iceland and the Faroe islands. Because of the sweet fragrance, cicely fruits are a good substitute for anise, fennel or liquorice. The leaves may be used as a replacement for chervil, although they give a much more dominant aroma.
Cicely is an essential ingredient of the fines herbes of French cuisine. In Scandinavia, cicely is common to flavour stewed fruits. Cicely fruits and stalks may also partly substitute for sugar because of their naturally sweet taste.