Lovage is the rarest and, arguably, most useful of all herbs. Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about cooking with lovage. Without a doubt this will be an article that even he most seasoned cook would have trouble finding elsewhere!
What is lovage?
Lovage is a perennial herb of the Apiaceae family. The tall-growing stalks produce wide leaves which are finely cut with numerous small holes in their surface. This herb produces large umbels of lacy flowers that give way to flattened seedpods containing seeds with a taste reminiscent of celery seeds.
Lovage has been used for centuries as both food and medicine in many cultures around the world, most notably Greece, Italy and Turkey.
Lovage has a long history as both an outstanding seasoning and medicine. In Ancient Greece, it was used as a flavoring for many dishes, particularly meat dishes.
This herb’s flavor is similar to celery seeds and possesses that distinct celery aroma while adding its own unique flavor. It has also been used in food cultures of Mediterranean countries for hundreds of years as a part of their culinary traditions. In Italy, lovage is known as “almost necessary” for hot pasta sauces and stews such as minestrone soup (Italian: minestra).
The fresh leaves are popularly served with grilled meats or ripe cheeses in the fall months as an accompaniment to the poultry season. In Turkey, lovage is a common ingredient in the famous lamb köfte dishes.
Today, lovage is also recognized as a treatment for digestive disorders, including gas and bloating. In many households in Greece and other Mediterranean countries it is very much a staple for all their cooking needs.
The vast majority of lovage leaves are consumed fresh or added to drinks such as wine and tea to create a flavorful flavor with an herb-like taste. The leaves can be harvested throughout the summer months and are most often sold by the bunch at farmer’s markets which supply local restaurants and supermarkets.
Lovage is also used for its medicinal properties. It is a powerful diuretic that helps to relieve bloating while removing excess water from the body. It is commonly taken in capsules or tablets as a treatment for such conditions.
Lovage – History & Culture:
The leaves of lovage have been used as a seasoning and medicine since ancient times.
In Greece, lovage is widely considered the “herb of choice” for all their cooking needs, and has been so since ancient times. As their signature herb, it was even assigned its own name: aglvma (Greek: ἄγλυφα).
This herb was such an important part of their culture that it was a symbol of hospitality and friendship. Guests were welcomed into homes with a tray laden with steaming cups of wine mixed with lovage.
In Chinese medicine, lovage is used to treat digestive issues and bloating due to excessive gas in the abdomen. Chinese medicine also employs this herb as an anti-inflammatory treatment to fight diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lower cholesterol levels, help control diabetes and regulate menstruation.
Lovage leaves are high in essential nutrients including iron, calcium and vitamins A & C. Fortified by these nutrients, the leaves are used in many countries as a preventative measure against anemia. In France, this herb is also used as a culinary garnish for many dishes.
Lovage is also used in folk medicine to treat gas and bloating. It is traditionally taken one teaspoonful at a time in the morning with warm water before meals or after meals if experiencing any digestive issues.
Because lovage is rich in iron, poor blood supply to the stomach can cause anemia which results in excessive gas and bloating when food intake occurs at a rapid rate. Lovage tea can be very useful in conditions such as this by having the ability to settle digestive issues and remove excess water from the body, helping to alleviate symptoms of illness and improve overall health.
As an added bonus, it is a lovely herb to prepare tea with as its leaves can be used to create a pungent and strong aroma that doesn’t overpower other flavors.
Lovage is an easy herb to grow indoors or outdoors if you choose. Indoors, the herb may not thrive if planted in potting soil as its roots become entangled and begin to wither quickly. Instead, plant lovage into a pot filled with well drained soil mix such as peat moss and vermiculite for best results.
The soil should be contained in a pot with drainage holes because the roots of this herb are extremely vigorous and will require room for expansion.
The growing requirements for lovage can be somewhat temperamental, requiring a well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter as well. Roots will grow vigorously in the soil and continue to grow further outward until they eventually begin to become dormant in the winter months.
Lovage will also benefit from being watered throughout its growing season to ensure that its roots are able to stand on their own before being transplanted outdoors.
Lovage can be grown outdoors in a sunny area of your garden or if not suitable for this placement, then direct sunlight is acceptable when planted near ponds or streams where it will receive ample water during warmer months.
This herb can be planted in pots and placed in pots of water during the summer months or directly into the ground depending on its size.
Lovage can also be grown indoors for culinary purposes. This herb does well in containers no larger than 1/2 gallon, as they will begin to quickly lose their foliage if grown for too long.
An evergreen houseplant, it requires a moderately lit area with indirect to bright sunlight. Being an herb that needs occasional watering throughout the year as its roots are not dormant like others, this plant typically grows well indoors but may require regular pruning to keep its lush green foliage from becoming overgrown and woody.
Sustainability of Lovage:
Lovage is an herb that is nearly impossible to eradicate once it becomes established in the garden. This herb primarily grows in temperate climates as well as tropical and arid regions, making it very adaptable to different environments.
Because this herb grows rapidly from its extensive root system, it can become invasive in warm climates even if planted in containers so care should be taken not to plant this herb outdoors if you plan on trying to remove it later.
Lovage is generally grown as an ornamental plant or for culinary purposes for its leaves so they can be harvested at any time during the growing season without being overly affected by pruning or lack of sunlight.
Unfortunately this herb is not one of the most sustainable plants due to its invasive nature, however it can be propagated easily by simply harvesting seeds from mature plants.
Uses for Lovage:
There are a variety of uses for lovage as both a culinary ingredient and an ornamental plant. For culinary purposes, lovage leaves have a very unique flavor that is similar to celery and parsley but much stronger in taste and texture.
This herb can be used fresh or dried in dishes such as stews or soups, though caution should be taken when using fresh materials due to the potential for allergic reactions when eaten in large quantities.
As an ornamental plant in the home, lovage is suitable for growing indoors and outdoors in a sunny area. When grown indoors, it can be kept indoors during colder months to brighten up a corner of the room but will require regular pruning to keep its foliage from becoming overgrown.
Lovage works well as an accent plant around the home as well as a decorative element for hanging on patios or decks. Be careful not using this herb in areas that receive high humidity levels as this herb has a tendency to rot quickly if exposed to too much moisture.
Lovage is also a common ingredient in numerous homemade remedies, most notably tea blends. It is often used to aid with indigestion and other digestive ailments as well as the common cold; however more extensive research needs to be done to confirm these claims.
Growing and Harvesting Instructions:
Lovage plants prefer a sunny area with well-drained soil for optimal growth. When growing from seeds, sow them directly into beds in early spring once the ground has thawed enough for planting or indoors before transplanting outdoors in mid-summer.
These plants will grow best if not transplanted due to their invasive nature; however moving them around may help with ideal growth.
Lovage is an aromatic perennial crop. You may harvest the plant anytime after it is about knee-high, though younger plants tend to have more tender leaves. To harvest, cut the stems up to 3 inches above the crown of the plant and then gently pull apart the leaves from each stem.
In addition to its culinary uses, lovage can be used in herbal medicine as a diuretic, expectorant (to facilitate coughs), febrifuge (to reduce fever), and anti-spasmodic (to treat cramps or muscle pain). It has also been used to treat rheumatism, kidney problems, and diarrhea.
This herb is considered safe to use when pregnant or nursing; however, the leaves can be poisonous if taken in large amounts.
It has also been used as a topical remedy for rashes and eczema. It is often applied directly to the skin as a poultice or infused in oil for topical use. The FDA lists this herb as safe for internal consumption when applied topically, but it should not be used internally without consulting with a licensed physician first.
By gifting lovage to friends, family members and neighbors you can help them transform their cooking by introducing healthier options such as lovage into their daily diet. Perhaps they will begin using it as a culinary herb, and begin growing it from seed.
Lovage can be easily grown indoors or outdoors in the spring and summer months without much difficulty. It is an easy herb to grow, requiring little care to thrive, so those who are new to gardening can easily get started with this plant.
Did you know?
Lovage was commonly used in ancient Greece as a seasoning and medicine for many dishes, particularly meals with meat or seafood. It also has been used in food cultures of Mediterranean countries for hundreds of years as part of their culinary traditions.
As an herbaceous plant, lovage is an easy way for gardeners to introduce a new flavor to their dishes. The leaves can be used as a contrast in texture and flavor when added fresh or dried to meals.
Lovage is also often used as an ingredient in herbal tea blends which can be served hot or cold at gatherings with family and friends.
This herb has been used for centuries as a common ingredient for cooking; however more research needs to be done on lovage’s nutritional value as well as its medicinal properties.
By gifting lovage plants you have the opportunity to introduce their friends, family members and neighbors to a new range of verdant colors and sweet flavors of this fun herb.
You can help them grow the tradition of growing lovage throughout their neighborhood, and encourage the sharing of ideas and recipes with one another. Lovage is a great herb to introduce to new gardeners because it is fairly easy to grow as long as it is given a sunny outdoor area in which to flourish.
Lovage Plant Care & Information:
Sow Indoors: 8-12 weeks before last frost, if sowing indoors start in potting soil under fluorescent lights; once seedlings have sprouted transplant them into individual pots filled with potting soil.
Plant Outdoors: 2-4 weeks after the last frost, plant seeds directly in garden beds or pots.
Growing Tips: Grow in full sun and well-drained soils. Lovage is poisonous to other plants so be sure to space them several feet apart and do not plant near other edibles. Once established, lovage will grow vigorously, so trim back plants regularly to control growth.
Harvesting & Storage: Harvest two or three times a year for best flavor and highest nutrient level; leave several leaves and stems on each plant to produce more leaves. Harvest leaves when about 1/4 inch in diameter; they will continue to grow for several weeks after harvesting. Store in a paper bag or air-tight container and refrigerate to protect the leaves from moisture.
Expert Tips: Lovage can be used as a culinary herb for salads, soups or stews. It can also be used in teas for digestive ailments but should not be taken internally without consulting with a physician first. It should not be planted near other edible plants because it will destroy them; instead, plant it at least three feet away from any other vegetation or they will die off quickly. Lovage is often grown as an ornamental plant indoors and outdoors in shady corners of the home.
Should You Grow Lovage?
Growing lovage is a great way to introduce your family and friends to new flavors and vibrant colors through herbalism.
This herb is easy to grow and provides a variety of uses for the home. Whether growing it for culinary purposes or as an ornamental plant, lovage is sure to add some pizazz to your garden with its funky foliage.
It is also an excellent herb for those new to gardening as it requires little maintenance when grown in well-drained soils. Give lovage a try today!