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The intense aroma of lovage

Lovage smells and tastes similar to a well-known German spicy sauce developed by Julius Maggi in 1885 and called after him, hence its common name Maggikraut. But what most people don’t know is that there is no lovage in the sauce.

Fun and versatile to cook with

The celery-like aroma of the plant is due to essential oils which stimulate the appetite and soothe the stomach and digestion. In recipes, lovage reinforces the taste of meat, soups, egg dishes, mushrooms and root vegetables such as carrots and celery. The young leaves can also be cooked like spinach as a side vegetable. Lovage pesto tastes deliciously spicy on pasta, potatoes and in salad dressing. To make lovage pesto toast walnuts, pumpkin seeds and garlic carefully in a pan and whizz in your blender with lovage, parsley, olive oil and parmesan and season with salt. In a clean screw-top jar the pesto will keep for months in the refrigerator if it is sealed with a layer of sunflower oil. Since the flavour of lovage is very intense, you need to use it sparingly. Often a knife tip of the dried spice or just a part of a fresh leaf is sufficient. For hot dishes, add the leaves and young shoots only towards the end of cooking.

Origins and botany

Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is probably native to western Asia and Liguria. It’s a perennial and can grow up to 2 metres high. With its tubular stem and prominent pinnate leaves, the plant looks rather like an overgrown celery. Its root is dried and used in medicine and to flavour schnapps. The seeds are used to flavour cheese and bread.

Grow your own lovage

Lovage is perfect for the herb garden. As a rule, one plant will provide enough lovage for a family of four. It prefers sun or semi-shade and because it grows so large, it needs a lot of space. As with many herbs, the best time to harvest lovage for drying is just before it flowers, when the young leaves are particularly aromatic. In cold winters, it will die back completely, but new shoots will grow in spring. You can find lovage to buy in farmers’ markets and possibly in well-stocked supermarkets. From spring to late autumn, you’ll be able to buy locally grown lovage.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de