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Lovage

April 11, 2013

In Love With Lovage

...from the archives...

Lovage

Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is one of my favorite herbs you have never heard of. The herb's lack of public recognition always seems odd to me. It's a versatile herb with a palate-friendly flavor a lot like celery, yet more complex and nuanced. Fresh, young leaves are mellow enough to use whole in a salad, but it also stands up to long cooking in soups and stews.

The obvious presenting flavor of lovage is celery, but the flavor is more complex than that. Along with the concentrated celery is a large dose of the bright green flavor of parsley and a hint of something sweetly earthy. I use it as a celery substitute whenever it is available and find it slightly sweeter and stronger than celery, something that I really like.

The hollow stem, a section of which can be up to a foot or more in length and an inch in diameter, makes an excellent straw for drinks, such as a Bloody Mary, where a celery flavor is desired. Lovage stems can be candied, like angelica, as an unusual sweet treat.lovage brush

Excuse me a moment of excitement, but I just discovered a new trick for lovage stems: sliced lengthwise and put in ice water, they curl like the ridged curling ribbon they make for wrapping presents! This offers all sorts of possibilities from the sublime (make a brush for putting melted butter on corn on the cob) to the ridiculous (edible icons of the Flying Spaghetti Monster). Curlicue garnishes. Hair for Halloween monsters. This could be fun.

Lovage is also a beautiful addition to your herb garden. Unfurling from asparagus tip-like bundles in early spring, lovage quickly becomes a hip-high bush of soft green foliage.closeup of new growth on lovageMidsummer sees flower spikes shooting to eye level before opening golden umbels that slowly mature into marvelously tasty seeds, something the birds know as well as I. Come fall, the birds and I vie for the mature seeds, with my winnings finding their way into stelovage flowersws and breads over the winter.

Gardeners appreciate lovage because it is easy to grow, tolerating most soil condition and even a bit less water and sun than large, leafy herbs. (It is easy to tell when lovage is thirsty; mine, which is in direct sunlight, droops noticeably on hot days. Fortunately, it revives just as quickly with a bit of water.)

  A perennial that, like tarragon, requires a period of cold dormancy, lovage is often grown as an annual in warm climates. If you have to do this, you can save your own seeds, stored in an airtight jar in the refrigerator, over the winter for spring planting.

On a personal note, I'd like to thank you for sticking around while I have been absent of late. Let's just say that there have been years when everyone around me was healthier than at the moment and I'd really like to go back to one of them. I hope to be back to more regular writing soon...really soon.

September 23, 2007

whb: Sausage-stuffed Lovage recipe

sausage stuffed lovage

Lovage is one of those obscure, sort of old-world herbs, that few people seem to have heard of. You may even have some in your garden, like some friends of mine, who were nevertheless, unsure exactly what it was - it looks, smells and tastes like celery, after all, but it never actually grows any celery stalks. Confusing beast.

My first recollection of lovage only goes back a decade, to one of those 9 course tasting menus at the Herbfarm, which included Columbia River sturgeon in a ragout of apples, leeks and lovage. While I liked it quite a bit, someoneElse announced then and there that he was going to have to figure out how to make it. I offered, "It's in his cookbook," and someoneElse has been offering me food with lovage ever since.

Most of the time, youngish leaves are used - they toughen as they get older, so save the mature stalks for soups and other dishes where you will remove them before serving - chopped up to lend a slightly more complex celery flavor to food.

lovage The stalks, however, are hollow and lend themselves to all sorts of interesting uses. As a straw, for example, for a bloody mary or other vegetable juice based drink. Rumor has it that you can candy the stems like angelica, although I have never done it. You can even make them into decorative thingies by slicing them and tossing the cut pieces into ice water. Strange but true. What I wanted to try was a bit different: creating an appetizer by stuffing the fattest stems I could find with...something.

Continue reading "whb: Sausage-stuffed Lovage recipe" »

May 25, 2007

weekend herb blogging: In love with lovage

lovage leaves

Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is one of my favorite herbs you have never heard of. The herb's lack of public recognition always seems odd to me. It's a versatile herb with a palate-friendly flavor a lot like celery, yet more complex and nuanced. Fresh, young leaves are mellow enough to use whole in a salad, but it also stands up to long cooking in soups and stews.

The obvious presenting flavor of lovage is celery, but the flavor is more complex than that. Along with the concentrated celery is a large dose of the bright green flavor of parsley and a hint of something sweetly earthy. I use it as a celery substitute whenever it is available and find it provides some ineffable extra taste that I really like.

The hollow stem, a section of which can be up to a foot or more in length and an inch in diameter, makes an excellent straw for drinks, such as a Bloody Mary, where a celery flavor is desired. Lovage stems can be candied, like angelica, as an unusual sweet treat.lovage brush

Excuse me a moment of excitement, but I just discovered a new trick for lovage stems: sliced lengthwise and put in ice water, they curl like the ridged curling ribbon they make for wrapping presents! This offers all sorts of possibilities from the sublime (make a brush for putting melted butter on corn on the cob) to the ridiculous (edible icons of the Flying Spaghetti Monster). Curlicue garnishes. Hair for Halloween monsters. This could be fun.

Lovage is also a beautiful addition to your herb garden. Unfurling from asparagus tip-like bundles in early spring, lovage quickly becomes a hip-high bush of soft green foliage.closeup of new growth on lovage Midsummer sees flower spikes shooting to eye level before opening golden umbels that slowly mature into marvelously tasty seeds, something the birds know as well as I. Come fall, the birds and I vie for themature seeds, with my winnings finding their way into stews and breads over the winter.

Gardeners appreciate lovage because it is easy to grow, tolerating most soil condition and even a bit less water and sun than large, leafy herbs. (It is easy to tell when lovage is thirsty; mine, which is in direct sunlight, droops noticeably on hot days. Fortunately, it revives just as quickly with a bit of water.)

lovage flowersA perennial that, like tarragon, requires a period of cold dormancy, lovage is often grown as an annual in warm climates. If you have to do this, you can save your own seeds, stored in an airtight jar in the refrigerator, over the winter for spring planting.

You can often find plants at a local nursery, although probably not at a 'big-box' store, and seeds are available from a number of sources, including Territorial Seeds and Seeds of Change. Better yet, keep an eye out for a plant in the garden of a friend or neighbor; If you see one, don't be afraid to ask for a start for your garden. A single plant is enough to supply all but the most avid of lovage fan - and two will do for even them - and since lovage self-seeds, there are often small "volunteers" growing around the base of established plants. Spring (now as I write this) is the perfect time to divide lovage clumps, preferably on a cool, cloudy day.

Continue reading "weekend herb blogging: In love with lovage" »

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