Lovage has long been used in Southern European cuisine. Sometimes known as Maggikraut because its taste resembles the popular soup seasoning by the same name, lovage imparts a delicately sweet flavor reminiscent of celery to foods. It can be used to make tea, intensely flavored vinegars, cordials or pastes intended for soup stock.
Medicinally it is frequently used as an antiseptic or a tonic to stimulate appetite. And should you wish to plant it in your garden, it will improve the health of all plants near it, much like borage drives away pests.
Eleanour Sinclair Rohde, in her delightful 1922 book A Garden of Herbs: Being a Practical Handbook to the Making of an Old English Herb Garden, tells us that “lovage was one of the herbs introduced by the Romans, and until the middle of the last century it was always grown in English herb gardens.” She reports that, according to an authority on the subject by the name of Parkinson, “the whole plant and every part of it smelleth somewhat strongly and aromatically and of a hot, sharpe, biting taste. The Germans and other Nations in times past used both the roote and seede instead of Pepper to season their meates and brothes and found them as comfortable and warming.”
Below is a German recipe for a soup stock base made from lovage (the original can be found at chefkoch.de). Use a spoonful or two in stews and soup to add a depth and complexity of flavor to your meals. It will last in the refrigerator for several weeks or, if you can the paste, it will last a year or so.
Lovage Soup Stock Base (translated from the German)
1/2 celery root, peeled and cut in pieces
10 carrots, cleaned and cut in pieces
3 leeks, cleaned and cut in pieces
2 onions, skinned and cut in pieces
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed
2 tomatoes, cut in pieces
1 bunch of lovage, cut finely
1 bunch of parsley
1 tbsp. salt
10 pieces of pimento
Put about 1/2 cup of water in a large pot and cook all of the above ingredients until soft. Add salt to taste (it should not overwhelm the delicate flavor of the herbs and vegetables). Put the cooked mass into a food processor and chop until the whole forms a firm mixture (it shouldn’t be too runny). Keep in refrigerator for a few weeks or proceed as for canning.