Aromatic Plants

Added on by Ben Reade.

The story goes that Nero’s palace was filled with doves that flew with perfumed wings: the collection and application of aromas continues to be a very important feature of the modern kitchen, though at NFL there has been attempt to match Nero’s style and more modern techniques like fans, or perfumed cushions under plates are cleaner and more efficient (if less charismatic). Mention has been made that flavour molecules are volatile, or aromatic molecules. In relation to food this is relevant  as they can become airborne at the temperature of the mouth (above 33°C) to then pass via the throat in 'retro-nasal' sensing to then be perceived by the brain as a part of flavour. At NFL, to help with and the creative processes, a list has been compiled of plants that have been embraced by New Nordic Cuisine, especially for their distinctive aroma. This list was assembled through brainstorming with a number of chefs with lengthy experience in the Nordic cuisine, especially at Noma. The list is a useful guide to some of the more particular plants used in the Nordic Cuisine, but it is by no means comprehensive and many other plants available in the area should be investigated (ethnobotanical research on local traditional communities is recommended to gain further knowledge of available edible plants, and discovery of plants which may be new to NNC). The parts of the plant used and their scientific names have been given in order to avoid confusion. Many of the plants on our list have strong effects on microbial populations; further research and literature review of these and other plants should be undertaken in order to understand how use of these plants could influence microbial action. This is particularly useful to the chef wishing to embark on a series of fermentation experiments.  Not all of the ingredients can be produced in Denmark, but many have become entangled with local culinary tradition with time and so have been included. To a certain extent it can be said that one way to define a culture is by what it excludes: New Nordic Cuisine has chosen to exclude black pepper form the list of possible ingredients, which may lead chefs to use a larger variety of alternative interesting spices.  

Incomplete list of Nordic aromatics

This list is given in order of vernacular English name to allow easy reference by cooks. The list is, by definition incomplete, but perhaps gives an idea of some of the commonly used ingredients that are not typical to other geographical locations. Some species listed are lichens (denoted by #), or fungi (denoted by *), and so not plants, however, the author does not feel that should be a problem. Staple agricultural products such as grains, common fruits and legumes are not included.

Common Name

Latin Name

Parts Used

Allspice

Pimenta dioica

(L.) Merr.

Fruits

Angelica

Angelica

L.

Fruits

Anise

Pimpinella anisum

L

.

Fruits

Beechnuts

Fagus sylvatica

L.

Seeds

Birch

Betula

L.

Sap

Black mustard

Brassica nigra

L.

Seeds & Leaves

* Black trumpet

Craterellus cornucopioides

(L.) Pers.

Arial Parts

Blackcurrant

Ribes nigrum

L.

Fruits & Leaves

Bladderwrack

Fucus vesiculosus

L.

Leaves

Blueberries

Vaccinium cyanococcus

Rydb.

Fruits

Caraway

Carum carvi

L.

Seeds

* Cep

Boletus edulis

Bull. (1782)

Arial Parts

Chervil

Anthriscus cerefolium

(L.) Hoffm.

Arial Parts

Chestnut

Castanea sativa

L.

Seed Kernels

Chickweed

Stellaria media

(L.) Vill

Arial Parts

Cloudberries

Rubus chamaemorus

L.

Fruits

Coriander

Coriandrum sativum

L.

Seeds

Cowberry

Vaccinium vitus-idaea

L.

Fruit

Crabapple

Malus sylvestris

(L.) Mill.

Fruit

Cucumber

Cucumis sativus

L.

Fruits

Dandelion

Taraxacum officinale

F. H. Wigg

and

T. erythrospermum

Andrz. ex Besser

Leaves

Dill herb

Anethum graveolens

L.

Arial Parts & Seeds

Dulse

Palmaria palmata

(L.) Kuntze

Fronds

Elderflower

Sambucus nigra

L.

Flowers & Fruits

Fennel

Foeniculum vulgare

L

.

Arial Parts & Fruits

Garlic

Allium sativum

L.

Bulb

Gooseberry

Ribes uva-crispa

L.

Fruit

Green juniper

Juniperus chinensis

L.

Cones

Greenland Labrador tea

Rhododendron groenlandicum

(Oeder) Kron & Judd

Leaves

Ground-elder

Aegopodium podagraria

L.

Young leaves

Hay

Mixed species, mostly grasses

Arial Parts

Hazelnuts

Corylus avellana

L.

Nuts & husks

Heather

Hedera

L.

Arial parts

Hops

Humulus lupulus

L.

Flowers

# Iceland moss

Cetraria islandica

(L.) Arch.

Arial Parts

Juniper

Juniperus communis

L.

Wood & Cones

Kelp

Laminariales

Migula, 1909

Leaves

Lemon thyme

Lemon citriodorus L.

Leaves & flowers

Lemon verbena

Aloysia citrodora

Palàu

Leaves

Liquorice

Glycyrrhiza glabra

L.

Root

Lovage

Levisticum officinale

 W. D. J. Koch

Leaves, Stems & Roots

*Morel

Morchella esculenta

(L.) Pers. (1801)

Arial Parts

Nasturtium

Tropaeolum majus

L. 1753

Leaves, Flowers & Seeds

Nutmeg

Myristica fragrans

Gronov.

Seeds

Pine

Pinus sylvestris

L.

Fresh Growth & Leaves

Quince

Cydonia oblonga

Mill.

Fruit

Ramsons

Allium ursinum

L.

Arial Parts & Bulb

# Reindeer moss

Cladonia rangiferina

(L.) Weber ex F.H. Wigg. (1780)

Arial Parts

Rhubarb

Rheum rhabarbarum

L.

Stems

Rowan berries

Sorbus aucuparia L.

Fruits & Shoots

Samphire

Salicornia europaea

L.

Arial Parts

Sea lettuce

Ulva lactuca

L.

Leaves

Sea buckthorn

Hippophae

 L.

Fruits

Sloe

Prunus spinosa

L.

Berries

Sorrel

Rumex acetosa

L.

Leaves

Spruce

Picea

Mill.

Arial parts

Stone crop

Sedum

L.

Sugar kelp

Laminaria saccharina

(L.) Lamouroux

Leaves

* Summer truffle

Tuber aestivum

Vittad. 1831

Fruiting body

Tarragon

Artemisia dracunculus

L.

Arial Parts

Thyme

Thymus vulgaris

L.

Leaves & Flowers

Walnuts

Juglans regia

L.

Kernels

Watercress

Nasturtium officinale

L.

Arial Parts

White mustard

Brassica juncea

(L.) Czern.

Seeds & Leaves

Wild bog mirtyl

Myrica gale

L.

Arial parts

Willow

Salix

L.

Leaves & Flowers

Woodruff

Galium odoratum

(L.) Scop.

Arial parts

Yarrow

Achillea millefolium

L.

Arial parts

You can expect us to add to this list with time, and we'd appreciate your additions too! Please be in contact if you know a plant, especially a wild one used in Nordic cuisine which is not on this list but should be, there are many.

Here is a wonderful application of a variety of wild aromatics, prepared by Carol Choi of the Noma pastry section for a 'Saturday night project' (check out @ReneRedzepiNoma #saturdaynightprojects for more great ideas from the staff and stagiers). The dish, a delightfully light composition of chestnuts, woodruff, cowberry, pickled pine shoots and spruce granita really captured the imagination of all those who were lucky enough to taste it - an exemplary demonstration of how aromatic plants can be used to create harmonious, delicate and delicious dishes.

About the author

My Name is Ben Reade, I’m a chef from Edinburgh, Scotland, and for the past 3.5 years I have been studying at The University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. For my final thesis, I came to Nordic Food Lab to research many subjects where my varied interests inerlaced with those of the Lab. The research arose out of time spent at the Nordic Food Lab between 29 September and 22 December 2011. The aim is to describe NFL’s current research to both chefs and non-specialized readers, explaining and coding the creative and scientific methodologies employed during the research at NFL, exploring their application in food experimentation and innovation. Over the next month or so I will be breaking down this thesis into manageable blog-style chunks, this is chunk 2 of around 25 I hope you find it interesting. If you want to ask me any questions directly, I’m contactable on Twitter @benreade.