The identity of silphium is highly debated. It is generally considered to belong to the genus Ferula, probably as an extinct species (although the currently extant plants Ferula tingitana, Ferula narthex, and Thapsia garganica have historically been suggested as possible identities). How something, which was once highly prized, can fade into extinction (actual or imagined) is the question that lies at the heart of Silphium. Once treasured for its medicinal properties, Silphium (which may or may not have been a gift from the god Apollo/the prehistoric progenitor of fennel/the inspiration for the traditional heart shape) is as multi-faceted as all of its possible identities suggest. While the eponymous accord remains a mystery, the overall effect of Silphium is thrilling. Spicy and searingly bright, it alights upon skin and makes us sparkle. Cinnamon and geranium are a kind of red fire with tobacco and frankincense for kindling and their aromatic blaze sends forth great wafts of cedarwood’s sweet smoke and cistus’ rose-tinged smolderings. Black pepper and ginger create a bittersweet, metallic heat that settles, like a fine glaze over herbal myrrh and sweet, salty leather. Silphium is elevating and exciting, a plant-based pursuit that begs you to give chase.
“Even if one just tastes it, at once arouses a humour throughout the body and has a very healthy aroma.” — Pedanius Dioscorides, around year 70 BC
Silphium Accord, Cinnamon, Tobacco, Geranium, Frankincense, Cedarwood, Cistus, Black Pepper, Ginger, Clove, Myrrh, Leather