With fragrant leaves and flavour-bomb seeds, sweet cicely is as tasty as it is easy to grow. On page 45 of May’s The Simple Things, Lia Leendertz proves sweet cicely’s worth in delicious salads, puds and aperitifs
A shrub is an old method of preserving fruit by boiling it with vinegar and sugar, creating a sharp concentrated syrup that is hugely refreshing topped up with soda water, or used in a cocktail, as here. Rhubarb and sweet cicely are natural friends, the sweet cicely bringing out the fruit’s sweetness.
Rhubarb & sweet cicely shrub with Aperol
To make the shrub:
Makes about 500ml
250ml white wine vinegar
200g granulated sugar
1kg rhubarb, chopped into pieces
A handful of sweet cicely leaves, roughly chopped
1 Put the vinegar and the sugar into a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.
2 Add the rhubarb and simmer until the fruit has disintegrated and the liquid is pink. Remove from the heat, add the sweet cicely leaves, and stir.
3 Allow to cool and then strain the mixture through a muslin into a sterilised jar.
To make the Aperol cocktail:
Rhubarb and sweet cicely shrub
Put a couple of ice cubes into a tall glass. Fill a third of the glass with the rhubarb and sweet cicely shrub and the next third with Aperol, then top up with soda water.