Monday, 2 July 2012

About Lovage

In 1927 my mother, who was only six months old, and my grandmother, traveled from Czechoslovakia to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Aside from the usual things a woman would carry at that time, my grandmother brought three other things in her luggage; an envelope which contained hot pepper seeds, a small jar of soil from her homeland, and a container of lovage seeds.   In Czechoslovakia, lovage, at one time was considered an aphrodisiac and girls hung sachets around their necks when meeting their lovers.

I grew up on a ten acre hobby farm and as long as I can remember we grew lovage. Since the leaves taste like celery, my mom used it in several recipes including: soups, potato salad, casseroles and stews. She would also use the leaves to make cough syrup by combining them with honey, lemon, and a bit of water simmered and then stored in a jar.  If we got a cold and cough we took a tablespoon of the syrup.  It sure beat the taste of commercial cough syrups. The leaves freeze well and are great in chicken soup on a cold winter’s day.

Lovage has a long history.  The Romans and Greeks used it and so did Native Americans.  Its high vitamin C content was invaluable to early sailors when eaten to avoid scurvy.     Throughout Europe it is widely used in several recipes and is even candied.  In Italy leaves are put on slices of mozzarella cheese with olive oil drizzled on top.  It is one of the ingredients found in Maggi soup cubes.  Try lovage as a stir stick for a Bloody Mary.   Or chop some up and eat it in yogurt like they do in the Middle East.  Lovage leaves are very pungent so get used to the flavour before you go gung-ho with it. 

The seeds have a strong, unique taste and offer a distinct flavor to herb breads and cookies. Ground finely the powdered seeds can be used as a pepper substitute. 

Since it is summer here is a recipe for a chilled soup:

Cold Lovage Soup
1 large onion
2 cups of chopped potatoes
2 tblsp of butter
4 tblsp finely chopped lovage leaves
31/2 cups of chicken stock
2/3 cup of heavy cream

Finely chop the onion, then peel and chop the potatoes.  Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pan and fry the onion until it is just soft.  Stir in the lovage leaves just for a few seconds.  Add the chopped potatoes, stock, season and cook for about 30 minutes.  Blend in a food processor and then return it to the saucepan.  Whisk in the cream, season, and then chill for at least an hour.  You can use low fat yogurt or sour cream instead of the heavy cream. Just before serving try adding 2 tblsp of fresh orange juice for a summery flavour.

The last time I saw my mother, July 2009, we held hands and walked around the property.  Aside from loading me up with rhubarb, she picked me a huge bunch of lovage for soup.  My mom passed away on Jan. 7, 2010.  I have a lot of memories of her but our last encounter and the lovage really resonate even today. 

Soup is liquid comfort.  ~Author Unknown



Anonymous said...

Love this story, Gloria. I can't wait to try lovage now!

Teri Flatley said...

Nice piece, Gloria. I was not familiar with lovage so glad to learn about it.