All you need is lovage

It all started during a phone chat with a friend, telling me about the lovage in her garden and asking whether I liked lovage. Next thing I knew she had sent some my way to see what I made of it. No excuse now. Lovage brings to mind the character written for Dame Maggie Smith in Peter Shaffer’s satirical play “Lettice and Lovage” – surely I was onto a winner.

Lovage is a herb, that much I did know, but I can’t say I’d ever used it. What I wasn’t aware of was that its seeds have long been used as a spice in European cuisine and that its leaves can be infused and drunk as a tea. With the flavour combination of parsley and celery its leaves and stem are good additions to soups, stews, salads, potato and egg dishes – perfect in a quiche and as a change to parsley. The weather dictated a light, summer soup and so I embarked on a lovage affair.

Chop an onion and sauté in 2 x 15ml (Table)spoons sunflower oil for about 5 minutes until translucent and becoming soft.
Roughly chop 3 medium potatoes in even-sized chunks and make up a litre of vegetable stock.
Add the potato, peas (frozen or fresh) and a couple of handfuls of lovage to the pan with the vegetable stock, stir well and simmer for about 40 minutes.
Pop the finished soup into a food processor, or use a stick blender, to purée until smooth. Season to taste and add a swirl of anything creamy such as cream, yogurt, kefir or quark if liked.
This soup and salad combo works well.

I now love lovage. It does, though, have a distinctive and quite strong flavour. The following day I added some oat milk to thin the soup down a little and this calmed down the lovage without eradicating it – any other milk would also work to balance out the flavouring.

Lovage is easily grown from seed and is an attractive ornamental plant in the garden. It is a hardy plant, a true survivor and can be difficult to keep under control. You might need to keep giving clumps of it away to friends! I’m with the Ancient Greeks and Romans who praised its medicinal and nutritional properties with its high levels of Vitamin C and the B complex. Traditionally it has been used for its diuretic, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant qualities. A tincture made from the leaves can be applied to help skin conditions such as acne or psoriasis. It is said to be a helpful digestive aid for colic and flatulence. Something for everyone then.

It is also known as love parsley. And there you have it: All you need is lovage, lovage all you need …