Monday, May 2, 2011

I love Lovage (levisticum officinale)



Lovage is tall!  Very majestic.  Above it is shown in early spring.  It is an old country herb used frequently in Southern Europe but used rarely in Canada.  Lovage is a clump forming perennial with rhizome roots and thankfully it is very easy to grow.  It shoots up early in spring and produces well into fall and the cold weather where I live.  The plant is an umbelliferae producing greenish-yellow flowers in summer followed by ridged brown seeds.


Drink as an herbal diuretic - soothe a sore throat - flavourful salt substitute


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. 



PRESERVING LOVAGE: 


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/



7 comments:

goddessofcake said...

Lovage! I have always detested the taste, and only in recent times I've enjoyed it in some dishes, like in potato - lovage soup. Somebody told me that lovage used to be considered an aphrodisiac. I could't believe it!

Nancy Guppy, MHSc, RD said...

With my readings to post this blog I did find it referred to as love parlsey or love angelica. They were sources from England. They made a potions for travelers or it was put in their shoes... odd stuff like that. I do rather love it ... but when it is young most mild. But I must say I add it to dishes all summer long and no one complains! I wonder if the plant varies in taste and uses? There is a Scottish verion that grows wild.

Aran M Cockburn said...

Hi Nancy, I'm in South River and did a search trying to identify this mysterious herb for a friend and came to your site via Google...lol
I now have some seeds from her and will be sowing them in my new herb bed. I love the flavour of Celery too and will be using this a lot next year....

Mary said...

Thank you soooooo much for sharing this. I have been wondering if I could cut and freeze this for winter use and now I know I can. I have dried the leaves for years but wanted some frozen for Salmon loaves too.

Nancy Guppy said...

It freezes really well Mary. Roll it up tight in a bag to seal out the air. To use roll it out and cut in slices for your dish then roll up again and pop it back in the freezer.

Robin said...

Hi Nancy, just found your blog and am loving it. My husband has a question. Since the lovage is supposed to help with flatulence, could you add lovage to a pot of beans to help with gas?

Liz Mc said...

Hi Nancy,
I LOVE, LOVE LOVAGE! An elderly Austrian man gave my husband a plant from his a few years ago and since then have bought more. We have a small house, garden but for sure, we have our lovage. I use it in soups, salads, stews, lentils mixed with the lovage, add oil and vinegar and yummy! Nobody here seems to know about it and I have cut lots up for my doctor and her staff, neighbours and today met a couple in the pool who gave me some rhubarb and we are taking over some of that wonderful lovage. I am so grateful for being introduced to it. I even walk by the plant, break some off and eat it. Made some tea as well as I believe it is a very healthy plant. To me it has a nice, stronger celery taste but my husband is not sure. Everyone is different but I AM VERY HAPPY, HERE
IN KELOWNA, B.C. ENJOYING MY LOVAGE! Thank you.