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Lovage has long and thin hollow stalks that can grow up to three to 4 feet. Its leaves are shiny and dark green with jagged, toothed edges. The delicate leaves of Lovage look and smell like celery leaves. It has a very strong aroma and flavor and only a few leaves are required to flavor a dish. The taste of Lovage is reminiscent of celery with some herbaceous nuances. Late in the season, the plant forms yellow flowers followed by yellowish-brow colored fruits. The seeds are also used as a seasoning, much like celery seeds.
Lovage is available during the spring months.
Leafy green Lovage is botanically known as Levisiticum officinalis. This perennial herb has been used since ancient times and is grown more as a novelty and for its heirloom status than for commercial purposes. Lovage is also known as Old English Lovage, Italian Lovage, and Cornish Lovage.
Lovage can be substituted for celery in a variety of recipes, such as soups or stews. Fresh, new leaves can be added to salads as a flavorful green before the flavor becomes too strong. Chop leaves and the stems and add to bread stuffing or casseroles. The leaf stalks can be sautéed similarly to stalks of celery, cut into segments or split lengthwise into long strips. Make a compound butter by mixing softened, unsalted butter with chopped Lovage leaves and place atop meats or fish. Add fresh Lovage leaves to simple syrup for ‘celery soda’ or a lovage-infused sparkling beverage. Lovage leaves do not dry well; the seeds are a suitable year-round substitute.
Native to England, "Garden" Lovage was cultivated in abundance long ago and has since fallen out of favor as a vegetable. Nowadays the herb is less cultivated and more often grown by individuals or small farms. Lovage prefers a northern climate. Used for medicinal purposes in the fourteenth century, the herb is said to aid in digestive maladies and Lovage oil may have anticarcinogenic properties.
Recipes that include Lovage. One is easiest, three is harder.