Lovage is one of the earliest things up in the garden. It looks small, and tentative at first, but by July, it is well over six feet tall. The leaves have a pronounced celery flavor, and can be used in salads (think tossed salad, or chicken or egg), or simmered with potatoes and onions and pureed into a creamy soup. I think our favorite way though is to harvest a sturdy stalk, trim the ends, and use it as a celery flavored straw for a Bloody Mary.

The following was adapted from an article on CNN. scroll down for a lovage soup recipe

If you love herbs and like to garden, a good perennial herb is lovage. The French call it céleri bâtard, or false celery. It is a great addition particularly to potato and tomato dishes.

Lovage has been used since Greek and Roman times as a seasoning in food, an additive to medicines, even an ingredient in love potions.

Lovage Soup

Lovage introduces a clean, celery-like, herbal flavor to this simple creamy soup. Use an immersion blender to give the soup a smooth consistency. — Adapted from http://nourishedkitchen.com

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 bunch green onions (white and light green parts, chopped)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 quarts chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 3 medium Russet potatoes (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 bunch (1 oz) lovage leaves (chopped fine)
  • Heavy cream (optional)

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium-high heat. When it froths, reduce the heat to medium and stir in green and yellow onions. Cook until fragrant, about five minutes.

Pour in chicken stock and stir in chopped potatoes. Simmer, covered, about 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in lovage and simmer, covered, a five or six more minutes.

Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Season with unrefined sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in a spoonful of heavy cream if you like, and serve.

It looks and smells something like celery but is much larger, growing more than 6’ tall, according to Michael Weishan, publisher of Traditional Gardening Magazine and host of National Public Radio’s “The Cultivated Gardener,” to debut in October.

“One of its principal uses is as a salt substitute in dishes. If you are trying to cut down on salt, it can be used instead in soups or stews,” he said.

Lovage can be used in almost any dish celery or parsley would be used in. It isn’t as bland as celery, so Weishan cautioned people should be careful of the amounts they use. “A little lovage really goes a long way,” he said.

Though there are recipes with lovage, a recipe isn’t necessary to use it. Lovage can just be added to dishes. It is great in green salads, potato dishes, soups and stews to give a dish “a little oomph,” Weishan said.

He said anything with a carbohydrate base or that is bland is better with a little lovage.

“It is one of my favorite herbs,” he said. “It is part of the carrot family and is one of a number of herbs the Emperor Charlemagne mandated must be grown in every garden.”

Lovage also has the added health benefit of being high in vitamin C.