...from the archives...
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.
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.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 the mature seeds, with my winnings finding their way into stews and breads over the winter.
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
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.