Meet Herb

Recently, I had a request from a reader to feature lovage, and I quote from her email -- "you should REALLY consider doing a write-up on's such a wonderful, unassuming herb!!! and it grows in any garden all the way into usda zone 2!! it's so great in stews, soups, salads, just about any food dish in which you'd use celery and/or parsley. i even use it in tuna salad. oh, and it grows nicely inside, in a pot, too."

I try, whenever possible, to accommodate such requests because, after all, the purpose of the column is for all of us to learn more about herbs and their uses and what better way than to feature herbs that you the readers are interested in?? So -- here we are. This month we feature lovage, for "reindeer".

Lovage is a hardy perennial that grows over four feet high, several feet around and has large dark green leaves. I would recommend planting it at the back of the bed as it does have a tendency to take over the garden. It grows wild in the Mediterranean.

It's a pretty plant that grows well, looks a bit like celery tops with a taste that is also similar to that of celery. It holds its flavour well whether in cooking, drying or freezing. Use the chopped leaves on their own, or together with other herbs in stuffings, chilis and beef stews, rich meaty or vegetable soups. Try them in chicken potpies or tuna casseroles. They also make a nice addition to a fresh tomato sauce for pasta, or add it to an omelet. You might also want to try some leaves in a salad or sandwich or even toss some into a stir-fry.

A great simple soup to make with lovage is made by simmering the leaves with carrots and onions in some chicken broth. It makes a very refreshing soup.

Use an infusion of the seeds to make a wash and also a deodorant. Or just infuse a handful of the leaves in two pints of boiling water, then add the strained infusion to a warm bath. Alternatively, tie a couple of handfuls of leaves into a cheesecloth bag and suspend it directly under the hot running water while you fill the tub. A tisane of lovage leaves is a great diuretic and helps with digestive problems as well.

On an anecdotal note, lovage leaves were once worn in a small fabric bag around the neck in order to attract a sweetheart. Hmmmmmmm . . . I'm thinking I should try this one!!

Potato and Lovage Soup

Lovage has a wonderful affinity for root vegetables, potatoes in particular.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cups peeled and cubed potatoes
  • 2/3 to 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 - 3 tbsp minced fresh lovage or
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • crusty bread or croutons to serve with
  • lovage or celery leaves to garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onions and potatoes. If you're using celery instead of lovage, add the chopped celery to the onions and potatoes at this point. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Add 3 cups of water and continue simmering until the potatoes are tender. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.

Puree the cooled mixture in a food processor. Pour it into a clean pan and stir in the lovage and enough milk to make it the right consistency. Heat through, scatter the lovage or celery leaves over it and serve immediately, accompanied by bread or croutons.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 - 45 minutes

Lovage Soup

Yes, another soup recipe . . . but this time of year makes me think of warming, rib-sticking soups . . . try serving this in Ronda's bread bowls.
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 pound carrots, scraped and sliced
  • 3/4 pound Jerusalem artichokes, scraped and sliced
  • 750 ml hot chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh lovage or
  • 2 tsp dried lovage
  • 65 ml half and half (10%) cream
  • lovage to garnish

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the carrots, sauté over low heat stirring often for five minutes. Add the artichokes and sauté for five more minutes. Stir in the stock, season to taste with the salt and pepper and stir in the lovage. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and allow to simmer for 35 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool for about five minutes. Pass the whole thing through the coarse disk of a food mill, or alternatively, pulse in short bursts in a food processor. Keep in mind that you want to maintain a fairly coarse texture.

Reheat gently, stir in the cream, taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve garnished with lovage leaves.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: approximately an hour

There ya go "reindeer", I hope I "done good"!!!

If you are still in a soup and stew mood, please take a look at my feature this month on chili . . . truly the perfect food!!! And make sure you stop by my friend Patti's column this month . . . I hear she's making Stone Soup.

That's all for now . . . see you next month . . . and keep those requests and comment coming in . . . I love to get them.