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Synonyms: lovage leaf, lovage root, garden lovage, bladder seed

botanical name: Levisticum officinale



Lovage is native to Iran and Afghanistan, but it has long been naturalized in the USA and in Europe. It was used in ancient Greece and has been cultivated in Central Europe as a medicinal and spice plant since the eighth century.


Among the main growing areas today are Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, some Balkan states and the USA. On the hillsides of the low European mountain ranges and in coastal regions of southern Europe lovage can also be found growing wild.



Lovage leaves are harvested two to three times during the year. Each time the plants are cut back to 30 cm and sprout again. Harvest times are July, September and October. Fresh leaves or shoots are sold predominantly at local markets; dried goods are sold all year round.


In your own herb garden the fresh leaves can be picked throughout the year; the best time for this is during inflorescence in July and August. In many supermarkets fresh lovage is also sold as small potted plants.


In autumn, lovage roots are dug up and the fruits are harvested with combines. The dried roots and fruits are sold in delicatessen shops.


Appearance, taste, characteristics

Lovage is a hardy herbaceous perennial 1-2 m tall and belongs to the family of umbellifers. It may grow for 10-15 years, whereby the vigorous part of the plant above ground dies off completely in the autumn and sprouts anew in the spring.


The meaty, many-headed rhizome is often longitudinally split and has transverse rings. With perennial plants, it thickens like a turnip and is reddish-yellow to grey-brown. The individual roots are 3-5 cm thick, wrinkled and up to 25 cm long. The entire rootstock of older plants can reach a diameter of 50 cm.


Lovage has stout, hollow, bare stalks that branch out near the top. The dark-green, pinnate leaves are sparsely incised and dentate. They resemble smooth parsley or celeriac leaves.


During inflorescence from July to August pale-yellow multiradial flower umbels on long stems appear that may be up to 12 cm across.


Spherical, longitudinally ribbed fruits ripen from the umbels and separate into two parts. These ribbed, yellow-brown schizocarps are about 5 mm long and curved.


Lovage has an unmistakable, penetrating aroma. It reminds one very much of soup seasoning, which has given it the German nickname Maggikraut. The flavour is sweetish, later slightly bitter and sharp, and resembles the aroma of celeriac although it is tarter. The roots are also rich in essential oils, which give them the aroma and flavour of the leaves. The fruits or seeds have an additional note of cloves.



The amount of essential oil in the fresh leaves is relatively small at 0.1-0.4%; the seeds contain 0.8-1.1% and the roots about 0.4-1.7%. The composition also differs to some extent, whereby β-phellandrene and phthalides, particularly ligustilide, are among the chief components of the oil in all three plant parts.


The leaves contain organic acids, resins, tannins, flavonoids and vitamin C.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Like most fresh herbs, lovage can be kept for several days in the refrigerator if it is set in a glass of water or packed in a plastic bag. It can also be frozen without any problem, but when dried, the leaves lose some of their aroma.


Dried plant parts (leaves, roots and seeds) should be kept in a dark, dry place in tightly closed containers. The dried roots in particular must be protected from infestation by insects. The seeds can be used for 1-2 years if they are well-stored.


Presumed effect on health

Because of its aromatic flavour lovage stimulates the production of gastric juices and is regarded as an appetite stimulant and an aid to digestion. It is used in folk medicine to relieve the feeling of fullness, heartburn, belching and flatulence.


Owing to its diuretic effect lovage is recommended for inflammatory disorders of the urinary tract. In this case infusions of the root are administered. A disease of the kidneys should be ruled out prior to its use, however.


In natural medicine lovage is also used to treat menstrual disorders. Tea made from the dried leaves is supposed to alleviate sore throat and fever and to have an antiseptic effect.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Lovage leaves are sold either fresh or dried, and whole, cut or ground. The roots are usually sold dried, but they may also be used fresh as a seasoning. Like the seeds, the roots are not used as frequently as the leaves in Germany.


Like parsley, lovage can be used in almost all dishes. It goes especially well with rice and noodle dishes, potatoes, root vegetables, legumes / pulses, omelettes, mushrooms and tomatoes. Mayonnaise and herb butter are likewise enhanced with lovage.


Lovage is a popular seasoning as well for soups, sauces, fish and meat dishes. It is worth trying this seasoning with stews and creamy vegetable casseroles, and salads, especially of tomato or paprika, taste excellent with the chopped fresh herb. Lovage is delicious with cheese sandwiches and curd cheese. In some parts of Switzerland the young leaves and stems are prepared as a vegetable, and the Italians enjoy peeled lovage roots.


The seeds are used whole or , especially to season bread and baked goods, pickles, marinades, sauces and stews.


The essential oil is extracted from the roots and seeds and used industrially to make mustard, soups, herbal schnapps and bitter liqueur.


Seasoning tip

Because of its intensive flavor, lovage should be used only sparingly. In contrast to many other spices, it retains its strength even after being cooked for a long time.


Lovage can be combined with tarragon, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme or basil. Its flavor also goes well with chili, dill, lemon balm, mint, garlic, parsley, chives and onions.





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