Lovage is an uncommon herb but can add much to both the garden and the cook's repertoire. It is a perennial herb that can grow to 4 or 5 feet. Easy to grow, it will tolerate shade. It is one of the earliest herbs to pop in the spring and it's leaves at this time of year are tender and slightly bitter, tasting strongly of celery.
I like to add the leaves to my salads to introduce a welcome bite after the bland vegetables of winter. Lovage stems and leaves can be added to soups much the same as one would use celery. The stems, which are hollow, make an interesting addition to a Bloody Mary, for use as a straw.
In July, lovage produces a soft yellow flower, resembling the umbrella-like flowers of dill and fennel. Eventually the flowers produce lovely seeds, larger than celery seed and with a strong celery-like flavor. I collect the seeds and dry them thoroughly, using them all winter whenever I make something that calls for celery seed.
One favorite family recipe I make often is coleslaw made with shredded cabbage, chopped onion, mayo, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, green olives and some ground lovage seeds.
Like many seeds(fennel, anise, dill, celery, cumin) lovage is considered an aid to digestion. The roots have been used medicinally by herbalists as a treatment for cystitis. The roots should not be used medicinally by pregnant women or anyone with kidney disease. When used as a food, it can be safely eaten by anyone!
Take-away for today: Add a lovage plant to your garden, it tastes good and it's good for you too!