Thursday, 16 June 2016

ALL ABOUT LOVAGE

“Ounce for ounce, herbs and spices have more antioxidants than any other food group.” - Michael Greger

Lovage, Levisticum officinale, is a tall perennial plant, the sole species in the genus Levisticum in the family Apiaceae. The name “lovage” is from “love-ache”, ache being a medieval name for parsley; this is a folk-etymological corruption of the older French name levesche, from late Latin levisticum, in turn thought to be a corruption of the earlier Latin ligusticum, “of Liguria” (northwest Italy), where the herb was grown extensively.

Lovage is an erect, herbaceous, perennial plant growing to 1.8–2.5 m tall, with a basal rosette of leaves and stems with further leaves, the flowers being produced in umbels at the top of the stems. The stems and leaves are shiny glabrous green to yellow-green and smell somewhat similar to celery when crushed. The larger basal leaves are up to 70 cm long, tripinnate, with broad triangular to rhomboidal, acutely pointed leaflets with a few marginal teeth; the stem leaves are smaller, and less divided with few leaflets. The flowers are yellow to greenish-yellow, 2–3 mm diameter, produced in globose umbels up to 10–15 cm diameter; flowering is in late spring. The fruit is a dry two-parted schizocarp 4–7 mm long, mature in autumn.

The exact native range is disputed; but it’s most likely native to much of Europe and southwestern Asia. It has been long cultivated in Europe, the leaves, roots and seeds used especially in European cuisine. The leaves can be used in salads, or to make soup or season broths, and the roots can be eaten as a vegetable or grated for use in salads. Its flavour and smell is somewhat similar to celery. The seeds can be used as a spice, similar to fennel seeds. In the UK, an alcoholic lovage cordial is traditionally mixed with brandy in the ratio of 2:1 as a winter drink. In Romania, the leaves are the preferred seasoning for the various local broths, much more so than parsley or dill. In the Netherlands it is the only non-salt ingredient of the traditional Asparagus dish. The roots, which contain a heavy, volatile oil, are used as a mild aquaretic. Lovage root contains furanocoumarins, which can lead to photosensitivity. In Romania it is also used dried and with seeds to conserve and to add flavour to pickled cabbage and cucumbers.

Lovage has been used in herbal medicine for many centuries. A herbal tea is made of the dried leaves, the decoction having a very agreeable odour. Its medicinal reputation probably being greatly founded on its pleasing aromatic odour. It was never an official remedy, nor were any extravagant claims made, as with Angelica, for its efficacy in numberless complaints. The roots and fruit are aromatic and stimulant, and have diuretic and carminative action. In herbal medicine they are used in disorders of the stomach and feverish attacks, especially for cases of colic and flatulence in children, its qualities being similar to those of Angelica in expelling flatulence, exciting perspiration and opening obstructions.

In the opinion of the old herbalist Culpepper, the working of the seeds was more powerful than that of the root; he tells us that an infusion: “being dropped into the eyes taketh away their redness or dimness.... It is highly recommended to drink the decoction of the herb for agues.... The distilled water is good for quinsy if the mouth and throat be gargled and washed therewith.... The decoction drunk three or four times a day is effectual in pleurisy.... The leaves bruised and fried with a little hog’s lard and laid hot to any blotch or boil will quickly break it.”

In the language of flowers, lovage stems and leaves stand for “strength”, while flower heads of lovage mean: “I may look delicate, but I conceal great strength.

This post is part of the Floral Friday meme,
and also part of the Friday Greens meme,
and also part of the Food Friday meme.

No comments:

Post a comment