Lovage is a perennial plant that is a member of the parsley family. The name of this tall leafy herb sounds quaintly delicate, but it still packs plenty of punch. Its flavour is often compared to celery – and in French it’s known as céleri bâtard or false celery. The German and Dutch common names, which reference Maggi soup seasoning (respectively, maggikraut and maggiplant), give more of a clue to its complexity. The name “lovage” is from “love-ache”, ache being a medieval name for parsley. The Czech name is libeček, and the Polish name is lubczyk, both meaning “love herb”. In Germany and the Netherlands, one of the common names of lovage is Maggikraut (German) or Maggiplant (Dutch) because the plant’s taste is reminiscent of Maggi soup seasoning.
It has yellow flowers, which bloom during the summer, and die as autumn comes. The flowers have a very intense scent. The seeds, roots and leaves of the plant are all widely used for various culinary purposes in Europe. It was introduced to Europe by the Romans, who used it not just as a flavouring agent but as a medicine for treating stomach aches and fevers. Today, it is commonly used in the dishes of European Cuisine.
Even though true lovage is a native of Southern Europe, it is widely cultivated in countries such as Germany, Poland, Hungary, France, Czech, Italy, the United States as well as western Asia. Additionally, there are two main types of lovage that grow wild – sea lovage and lack lovage. Sea lovage is also referred to as shunis or Scottish lovage are found in parts of Britain and the U.S. Black lovage, on the other hand, are found to grow wild in Britain and some parts of the Mediterranean. They are also referred to as alexanders.
All parts of the plant can be used. The leaves can be chopped up and added to any dish you would use celery in including salads, soups, stews, frittatas, egg salad, and potato salad. The flavour is stronger than celery, so use it accordingly. If you like bloody Mary’s, the hollow stalk of the herb is for you! Cordials were made primarily with the seed, and one popular medieval recipe included both yarrow and tansy.
Lovage is often added to soups, stocks, stews as well as meat dishes as a flavouring agent. Its flavour is reminiscent of celery, and just like celery, the leaves and stems can be employed either whole or chopped.