CULTIVATION: This is a “hardy” perennial (zones 3-8) that needs light shade and a rich, moist soil to grow well. I bought my plant years ago at Commanda Country Gardens on the Alsace Road near Commanda. You can also start from seed. Lovage grows up to eight feet (2.4 meters) tall and spans three feet (1 meter) so give it room to spread and plant it behind your shorter perennials. The herb likes at least six hours of sun a day but it can thrive in part shade. Like other perennials, divide roots in second year. I have lovage growing in three places now.
MEDICINAL USE: I am promoting the culinary use of lovage but I also find the medicinal and historical use interesting. A tea, made from leaves and/or roots is said to be mineral-rich and aid in digestion, reduce water retention and flatulence. Lovage is carminative (i.e., prevents flatulence or helps expel gas). Some references talk about lovage root being used to treat menstrual disorders. If this is an area of interest for you I recommend further exploration! Visit this link to read a bit more....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovage.
CULINARY USE: Both the celery like leaves/stems and the large, aromatic roots can be enjoyed fresh or dried. The leaves taste like celery and you can add a small handful to soups, stews, vinaigrettes and salads. A small amount heightens the flavour in recipes allowing you to use less salt in the dish. If you are new to this herb start off by using a tablespoon or so and see if you like it. In soup and stew making I use a whole cup of the young leaves and stems and I do not find it too strong. I also add minced lovage to omelets, salads and even vinaigrettes.
Roots can be peeled and eaten as a vegetable. Even the savoury seeds are edible. The hollow stems (minus the leaves) can be fun to use as drinking straws for refreshing summer beverages.
There are a lot of ways to preserve lovage! I like to dry it in my food dehydrator and use over the winter as a tea or in soups and stews. I cut back the plant once or twice in summer so I get a continuous supply of young leaves. The older leaves are stronger and not a pleasant tasting. I simply slice leaves and stems, dry and store in glass jars. I label and date my jars as I do end up with a lot of them... plus other people might want to know what is inside!
Lovage also freezes well. Chop it up and freeze in a container or bag. Proper freezing techniques would tell you to blanch in boiling water and then freeze. Blanching removes surface bacteria and enzymes which can cause flavour changes during freezing.
You can also add chopped lovage to your chutneys and preserves when you are canning. And finally, lovage preserves well as an herb vinegar. Add it to a sterile bottle with organic white wine vinegar. A nice flavour combination is lovage + garlic + black peppercorns. Steep in a cool dark place. I store all my home-made vinegars in the fridge so I don't have to worry about food safety.
Please try this recipe for Wild Leek, Lovage and Potato Chowder. If you don't have the wild leeks and lovage you can still make it with leeks or green onions and celery.
© Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc
Visit me at http://nancyguppy.com/