Herb of the Week this week is: Lovage and Smallage
Smallage (Apium graveolens) is considered "wild celery" and has a more intense celery flavor and aroma the the related large modern stalks of celery with leaves that look like parsley. Lovage (Levisticum officinale) has a broader deeply cut leaf with a similar strong celery flavor that can be found in the stalks, leaves and seeds. You only need a little to bring that celery flavor.
Lovage has been used since Roman times as a medicinal herb, while Smallage as wild celery is believed to have been worn around the neck of King Tutankhaman. The celery we know today was created by breeding the Smallage in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Lovage will die back to ground at the end of the season, so don't panic if you don't see what was so tall at the end of the season.
With Smallage cut the individual stalks as needed and harvest the seeds by cutting the stalk and hanging to upside down to dry with the seed head covered.
Use fresh Smallage leaves in salads and sauces, and add the seeds to stews and casseroles.The stalks can have a harsh taste and used in French cuisine, but usually blanched first to draw away the bitterness and make them more sweet like their commercial cousins.
Smallage seeds have been studied for the ability to lower blood pressure and positive results have been found in tests using rats. I believe this makes the case for adding it to your diet in moderation as an edible herbs with positive health properties.
For Lovage you want to harvest the roots in the fall or spring (when you would also dig out divisions) using a sharp spade or garden fork. Any time during the growing season you can harvest the leaves and stems. If saving the seed (which is a great substitute for celery seed) you can cut the stem as the seeds begin to turn golden or tie them with cheese cloth and allow to mature further before hanging upside down for a final drying.
Lovage is best used fresh, but you can freeze the leaves and stems. Blanch a handful of leaves in boiling water VERY quickly then quickly throw into a bowl of ice water for a couple of minutes. Drain, place in plastic freezer bags and freeze. The frozen Lovage can be minced and used in cooked dishes. Lovage has a strong taste so use sparingly, increasing the amount only if you are sure it will not overpower the dish.
Add a teaspoon of fresh minced Lovage to your chicken soup during the last 15 or 20 minutes of cooking. Lovage is perfect in soups and long cook dishes in place of celery.You can also add it to hot or chilled vegetable, meat, potato or tomato soups. Add one to two tablespoons of minced fresh Lovage to your meatloaf recipes. Harvest Lovage seeds to use whole or ground in cakes, meats, biscuits, breads, sauces, cheeses, salad dressings, or pickles. Add fresh leaves to your favorite potato salad or coleslaw too.
In the spring, once your plants are established you can cut the stalks of lovage and eat them raw or blanch them for a spring vegetable. Add a few leaves to a salad for a an aromatic enhancement.
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 green garlic stalks, cleaned as leeks and chopped, discarding the dark green leaves
1 Tbs. chopped Italian parsley
3 canned tomatoes, seeded and chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, divided
2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for table
1 pound of fresh or frozen peas
1 1/2 pounds of baby carrots - sliced
2 tablespoons of chopped Lovage
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
3 tablespoons of regular yogurt
1 teaspoon of mustard
Combine the peas and carrots and steam for 10-15 minutes. Set aside. Mix the other ingredients thoroughly, then add the peas and carrots. Place in the refrigerator and allow to cool completely, and serve as a cool and refreshing side dish.