TheHerbBoat, site logo.

Blog

LOVAGE ACTUALLY

Posted on

So it seems that Lovage is enjoying a much deserved renaissance. I have seen a surge in sales lately of this big, hearty, robust herb, both in its dried form and as young plants through my sister business Alchemy Plants. Last winter in London. I spied trendy young hipsters sipping Bloody Marys through hollow Lovage stem straws, found young lovage leaves in restaurant salads and my Mother’s Day treat was a delicious meal out of roasted beets with Lovage pesto. lovage2 

lovage4

Lovage, Levisticum officinale, is a member of the Umbelliferae family, like carrots and parsley, and is a Mediterranean import to Britain … yet another of the wonderful things the Romans did for us … but has now become naturalised over much of Europe and America. It has been grown for centuries in Britain and was an important plant for early herbalists and found in Monastic and cottage gardens everywhere. King Charlemagne loved Lovage so much he had all of his estates planted with it. Lovage plays a big part in Nordic and Icelandic cuisine, introduced by the Vikings who used it a lot in cooking. Along with Angelica, it grows abundantly on the northern Isles like Shetland

 lovage1

Like its relatives, Coriander and Angelica, the whole plant, roots, stems, leaves and seeds, is edible and all parts have been used medicinally in the past. It has been used as a digestive stimulant, appearing in many medicinal tonics, shrubs and particularly in the form of Lovage Cordial which seems to first appear in the 14th century and is still available today. It has been used as an aphrodisiac, to treat “women’s problems”, skin complaints, flatulence and in the 17th century Culpeper suggested making an eyewash from the seeds.

Lovage has natural antiseptic and deodorant properties; medieval travellers would put leaves in their shoes. There are some great natural deoderant recipes here, including one with Lovage root  Please, don’t take any of this as medical advice … or the Herb Police will be after me … it is purely for academic interest and I would recommend caution using lovage if you have kidney problems or are pregnant as it is an emmenagogue herb (stimulates menstruation).

 

Lovage is a giant of herb to grow, with dense foliage and yellowy green cow parsley type flowers. Reaching 6 to 8 feet in height it needs a large space. It can be grown in large containers, in full sun or partial shade, but will need feeding, regular watering and dividing every few years. It dries well, by hanging upside down in bunches, retaining much of its strong, earthy, aniseedy, celery flavour. The leaves and stems can be eaten raw or cooked, the seeds have a pungent taste and are great in curries, biscuits and bread, any part of the plant can be added to soups and stews, giving a depth of flavour that I found useful in my vegetarian days. It also combines well with egg dishes like frittatas.

 lovage3

I make Lovage Cordial by infusing 2-3 tablespoons of Lovage seed or root (or both) with 500ml of Brandy and 100g of golden caster sugar. Leave to infuse for 3 to 4 weeks, strain well through muslin or kitchen towel and bottle in sterilised bottles. I have also used vodka and in the past have added fennel seeds, chilli flakes, celery seeds, valerian root and angelica root all to good effect. The leaves, fresh or dried, infuse well with Gin and Vodka and Lovage is making an appearance as a botanical in several of the new breed of Artisan Gins.

If you want to try Lovage pesto, and I really recommend you do, the amazing folk at Incredible Edible in Todmorden have a recipe here https://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk/blogs/lovage-pesto-recipe. 

As a footnote, there is another edible native British herb, Alexanders or BlackLovage, which is similar in appearance to Lovage, though not a big in taste or stature. But that is another story

 

That’s All Folks

TTFN

Bunny