Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lovely Lovage

I am rich in friends, and as I result I am rich in herbs too.  The post about my new bay tree prompted my friend C to contact me.  As C has a gorgeous lovage plant growing in front of her house, and as I had herbs on my mind, I strongly hinted that my new garden could use some lovage.  Fortunately C is an incredibly intuitive woman who is good at picking up on such hints.  I had lovage and oregano for my garden and some lovage leaves for my kitchen the next day.  

My new lovage plant!

So, what the heck is lovage you ask?  That's a good question. I had to ask too the first time C offered to cut some for me to take home.   

Lovage is an old herb.  It's not that common anymore, and until I saw C's plant I had only ever read about it.  The leaves taste and smell like celery on steroids.  Not surprising, as lovage leaves look like large celery leaves.  What is surprising is the slightly salty flavour the leaves impart to a dish.  I've read that the dried leaves can be used as a salt substitute, but I haven't tried that yet.  I might though.  If my wee plant takes off it could grow up to 7 feet tall.  I'll have more leaves than I know what to do with, as a little bit goes a long way.

Recipes that call for lovage are as uncommon as the plant.  My internet searches resulted in lots of recipes for potato-lovage soup, which is very nice by the way, and several suggestions to add it to recipes I already use, like egg salad.  Since C first introduced me to lovage I've pretty much exhausted all the recipes I'm likely to make.  There are others, but they are the ones that tend to be too exotic (sanathu) or too much work (cheese-stuffed cabbage) for this cook. 

This time I decided to be brave and create my own dish using lovage.  I basically went with what I had in the house and made a salad, and I was rather pleased with how it turned out.  It's tangy, sweet, salty, crisp and crunchy all at the same time.  It's also something that could be switched up quite easily.  No raisins? Use dried cranberries.  The mixed bean sprouts only went in because I had them in the house.  I bet walnuts or pecans would work just as well.  Prep and clean-up were also easy.  (You'll notice that I make the dressing first in the same bowl the salad will be served in.  I know that's not the traditional way to make a salad, but it means one less item to wash come clean-up time. Always a good thing in a house with manual dishwashers.) 

Salad with Honey-Mustard-Lovage Dressing

Makes 2 generous servings. 

Honey-Mustard-Lovage Dressing
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard (approx measurement)
1 tsp honey (also approx measurement)
2-4 minced lovage leaves
pinch of sea salt

Mix the dressing ingredients in a large bowl.

4-5 romaine leaves
1 crisp apple
1 small handful mixed bean sprouts (maybe 1/4 to 1/3 cup)
1/3 of an English cucumber
1 small handful raisins

Tear romaine into bite-sized pieces, chop apple and cucumber and toss into bowl with dressing.  Top with sprouts and raisins. 


  1. a little advice about Lovage (it is a delicious in soup stock) It has a tap root that once growing happily will be a real challenge to remove. Flower heads entice benefical insects but if left to form seed your lovage patch will multiply at an alarming speed. Be forewarned!

  2. Thanks Connie. Good thing it's currently contained in a pot! If my rhubarb doesn't thrive in it's new home, and right now it's looking like it's not, I may move the lovage there. So far there isn't much that truly likes that area of the garden. Maybe lovage is up to the challenge. (Insert bad jokes about all it needs is lovage here.)


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