Lovage (Levisticum officinale), although originally a Mediterranean plant, grows wild all over the north. It is a classic example of an old herb that has fallen into disuse among home cooks, though it is often the main flavor used in bouillon cubes. Lovage is not easy to buy, so your best option is to grow it. Learn more about Scandinavian lovage.
How it grows
Lovage, a huge umbellifer, is a hardy perennial, though short-lived. It can grow up to 2 meters in height, so plant its position in the garden carefully, ideally at the back of a border. Lovage prefers a rich, well-drained soil, but generally needs very little encouragement to grow whether in full sun or partial shade. It dies right back in winter.
Related: Scandinavian Herbs
Appearance and taste
With its hollow stems, lovage bears a passing resemblance to celery, and its flavor is certainly similar, though perhaps celery on speed is the best way to describe its penetrating, slightly citrussy taste. The leaf and very young stalks are the parts used.
Related: Chervil in Scandinavia
Related: Tarragon in Scandinavia
Lovage is a herb that all good old sensible kitchen literature tells us should be used sparingly, as it makes hostile takeovers on all other aromas. This is not true, it takes its place nicely beside the other flavors, but it does not hide itself. The taste is slightly bitter, meaty and herby. It’s lovely if you put a leaf in the water for boiling potatoes, use it with other herbs for soup, or go all the way and make it into a powerful, northern pesto.
This pesto is perfect as a dressing for new potatoes, as a sauce for grilled meat and fish, or on rye bread with sliced new potatoes – just top with a blob of pesto and scatter with salt flakes.
A handful of lovage leaves
100 walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
a punch of sugar
½ smallish new garlic bulb
I tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
100g breadcrumbs, toasted
Whiz everything except the breadcrumbs in a food processor, but not too much as you want a coarse, chunky consistency alternatively you can chop everything up by hand on a board.Simply mix with the crisp crumbs and it’s ready to use.
Scandinavian Lovage, written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): Photo Store norske leksikon