Saturday, August 12, 2023


       or maybe the question is--what is lovage?

In 1649 Nicholas Culpepper published 'The English Physician, or Herball', and it has since been reprinted in many forms and languages.  The copy I have is a 1985 edition.  The first sentence in
the description of lovage is 100 words long.  Within all those words was one word that sent me to the magic machine for a definition.  The word was "smallage", which means wild celery.  The usage was to describe the "shape of the leaf, large, winged leaves, divided into many parts like smallage, but much larger" (and then the sentence continues with another 60 plus words!).

According to Culpepper, the virtues are many.  "It openeth, cureth, and digesteth humours,, and mightely provoketh women's courses and urine."   In addition, it warms a cold stomach, easeth all gripings and pains, expels wind and resisteth poison and infections.  Did I mention it removes spots or freckles in the face?

Lovage came to America with early New Englanders.  New Englanders would candy the root and also chew on the seed during long church services to keep them alert.

Lovage, Levisticum officinate, from the Apiaceae (carrot, parsley) family is native to Southern Europe and the mountainous region of the Mediterranean.  Lovage is a perennial in zone 3 and is considered a pollinator.  I have grown it for over 10 years and each year it pops back up early in the spring, no matter what the winter has been.  Reports are that it can grow 6 to 7 feet tall.  The usual growth in my garden is 12 to 18 inches tall.  Descriptions are that the plant flowers in late June with umbel yellow greenish blossoms.  Although my plant always shows a robust growth, I have not seen it bloom.  I need to solve that mystery.  My original plan to use it was for winter seasoning to replace buying expensive celery that usually ended up going soft in the veggie drawer.

The plant looks like thin, dark green celery, with leaves that look like a combination of both celery leaves and giant parsley leaves.  The seeds look and taste a lot like what we buy labeled as "celery seed".  I checked several national packaged culinary seed sources and didn't find anything labeled as Lovage Seed.    Lovage garden seed is available at Nichols Garden Nursery in Philomath, OR and at The Thyme Garden in Alsea, OR.

Lovage can be used in salads, soups, also chicken or pork dishes.  A word of caution: lovage is strong so start with just a leaf or two of chopped fresh leaves.  The leaves can also be used in frittatas, egg salad and potato salad.  If you like bloody Mary's the hollow stalk of the lovage is for you.

In the Netherlands, it is served with white asparagus and salt.  In Romania it is used to add flavor to pickled cabbage and cucumbers, while in the UK it is made into an alcoholic drink called Lovage Cordial.

I started harvesting the young more tender stalks to dehydrate.  I strip the leaves onto a paper plate and microwave for 1 minute at a time until dry.  Usually it is 1.5 minutes to 2 minutes.  At 1.5 minutes, you can leave the plate on the countertop to finish off.   Storage is in a glass jar.

I found several recipes to add to the soup file that sound like fun to try on a cold winter's day.

Romanian Meatball Soup from: Joanna Cismaru website and Lovage and Potato soup from the Herbal Academy website.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let us know what you think of Gardening in Central Oregon.