Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is in the same botanical family as celery and that’s kind of evident from its celery- like flavour and aroma and indeed its utilization in culinary terms in many similar ways to how we use celery – the foliage and stems eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable. It is a digestive and so is often seen as a herb to add to foods as opposed to a food in its own right. I would say if you are somebody who has photosensitivity after eating celery, avoid lovage. If not it really is a great herb and a versatile veg. Like celery it can be blanched. Raw it can have strong parsley notes, sometimes with a spice hint. Its flavour mellows a bit when cooked. The roots can be cooked as you would salsify but the roots are considered the medicinal end of the plant.
Any plant with officinale in its title is an ‘official herb’ – utilized in official or sanctioned monastic healing and herbalism. The healing part of the herb has traditionally been its roots. Active principles in the roots have a diuretic effect on the body – making it a useful treatment for bladder and kidney complaints as well as gout and rheumatism. It is antimicrobial which combined with its diuretic capacity makes it excellent for urinary tract infections. The roots are also carminative and have a tradition for treating both colic and bloating. More modern herbalists may actually utilize lovage for its stimulating and warming effect upon the respiratory system and its affinity with blood circulation.
The origin of the name lovage is uncertain, at one point it was called love parsley – considered an aphrodisiac and a regular feature of medieval love potions – it is packed with phthalides which are sedative and back then drowsy was clearly alluring. It was also utilized to speed up menstruation and to induce miscarriage – so a bit of a mixed bag on the love front but its chlorophyll packed foliage certainly refreshed the breath and zings the mouth – and so prime one for some kissing. If you are planning a romantic meal try something from http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/search?keywords=lovage