Tuesday, August 7, 2012




(Levisticum officinale)

Known also as “love parsley” and “false celery,” the botanical name of lovage is said to be derived from Liguria, Italy where this herb abounds and its common name comes from the fact that in many European countries it has a traditional reputation as a love charm or aphrodisiac.  Lovage has been used since Greek and Roman times as an ingredient in love potions as well as a seasoning in food and additive to medicines.  One of the most prominent flavors in Roman cookery and seeds chewed by the Greeks to aid digestion and relieve flatulence, lovage was mandated to be grown in every garden by the Emperor Charlemagne.  The New England colonists nibbled bits of its dried root in church to chase away the weariness of long sermons, the Shakers grew and sold it as medicine and the Pennsylvania Germans dried its  hollow stems for use as natural drinking straws.  It was even used as a salt substitute during World Wars I and II.  Today, however, lovage is one of the lesser known herbs.

Lovage is not a small, delicate plant; growing more than 6 feet tall, it looks and smells like celery and has bright green hand-shaped leaves and ridged hollow stems.  It is a perennial that is easy to grow in a sunny site in well-drained soil from seed or division of roots and looks good in the back of a perennial border since it is tall and forms small, pale yellow flowers late.  It dies back to the ground each winter, but grows larger and broader every summer, reaching its full size in about four years.  Plant here and there in the garden to promote the health and flavor of other plants such as potatoes and root vegetables.  Its flowers are also attractive to tiny parasitic wasps that prey on garden pests such as cutworms and tent caterpillars.  It can be  harvested at a foot tall, cutting the stems at the sides.  It is best used fresh, but the leaves and stems can be frozen.  Blanch in boiling water and quickly add to a bowl of ice water then drain, place in freezer bags and freeze.  It can also be pureed in water and frozen in ice cube trays.  Lovage seeds can also be harvested after they begin to turn brown and after several seasons, the roots can be dug, split and preserved.

With a flavor stronger than that of celery with overtones of curry or lemon, one plant is enough for use by a family.  Every part of the plant is edible!  The leaves can be used much like celery or parsley, but with a lighter hand and low sodium.  A great flavoring for soups especially homemade chicken soup, stews, vegetable and potato dishes, lovage gives dishes “a little oomph.”   The seeds can be used on biscuits and in breads as well as sprinkled over meats, salads or rice.  The seeds also make flavorful herb butter, cheese spreads and pickling brines.  The stems can be used as a unique straw for sipping tomato juices.  All parts impart a celery-like flavor to herbal vinegars.  Lovage is full of vitamins, especially vitamin C.  The root oils and extracts are also used as fragrance components in soaps and exotic perfumes as well as flavoring agents in liqueurs and tobacco.

One of the principal uses of lovage
is as a salt substitute

What is sold as "celery seed"
is often partially or
entirely ground lovage seeds



2 Tbsp. olive oil                               
1 onion, chopped
3 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cups water
1 1/4 cups milk
salt and black pepper to taste
3 Tbs minced fresh lovage or 1Tbs dried

            Heat the oil then add the onions and potatoes. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add 3 cups of water and continue simmering until the potatoes are tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree the cooled mixture in a food processor or blender then place into a clean pan and stir in the lovage and milk slowly until the right thickness. Heat through, and serve.

6 large eggs                                      
3 green onions thinly sliced
2 tsp. minced lovage                                   
2 tsp. minced parsley
1 tablespoon snipped chives                     
1 cup mayonnaise to taste
1 tablespoon prepared mustard   
salt and pepper (optional)

            Hard boil the eggs, them place in a bowl of cold water to cool. Peel them, place in bowl and mash. Add the green onions and herbs, then add chives, mayonnaise and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on bread or on a bed of lettuce.



". . . I have given you all things even as the green herbs."

Genesis 9:3


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