Herbs on Saturday and a Bowl of Wild Garlic, Lemon & Lovage Soup
Yesterday brought Siberian weather conditions and I awoke to sub-zero temperatures…….the trip to the Hen Hut was fraught with danger as my garden clogs slipped on icy patches on the terrace and frozen grass snapped underfoot in a rather alarmingly loud manner. The feathery ladies were not keen on leaving their straw strewn hen palace and I had to coax them out with promises of hot porridge later…….the air was heavy with ice and the poor birds all looked half drugged with the cold. My Toulouse tiled kitchen was a bit on the nippy side too, and my first chore of the day was to feed wood into the Aga……before warming the pot and making a cuppa. There was only one thing for it, to make soup for lunch. I love soups all year around, but a winter soup is a thing of culinary beauty – a warm, unctuous bowl of hearty goodness, and what better recipe to highlight for my new Herbs on Saturday Blog Hop than a vegetarian soup flavoured with my favourite herb, lovage.
Lovage, Levisticum officinale
Lovage is a beautiful hardy perennial herb belonging to the Umbelliferae, the same family as angelica and carrot.
Although lovage has been grown in English gardens and Monastery gardens for hundreds of years, it is not a native plant. It originates from the Mediterranean.
Lovage has been cultivated since the time of Pliny (23-79AD). It was used a good deal as a herbal remedy for sore throats as well as an aphrodisiac. In 1597, John Gerard considered lovage to be one of the wonder drugs of the day and was used for jaundice, colic and fever in children. Old herbalists would also claim this herb would aid against other ‘pestilential disorders’, which allowed them to prescribe it for pretty much anything.
This tasty recipe was recommended for spot removal – ” the leaves bruised and fried with a little hog’s lard and laid hot to any blotch or boil will quickly break it “.
A popular cordial was brewed from a mix of lovage, yarrow and tansy. A more alcoholic version included sugar and brandy. The drinks were used to reduce stomach upsets. Recipes are still often listed in modern herbals and are claimed to be delicious.
The Greek name Levisticum is said to be a corruption of the Greek Ligusticum from the Greek Ligustikas, pertaining to Liguria, the Italian province which is one of the plants’ homelands.
A tall addition to the herb garden, lovage is often placed at the back of the herbaceous border. Hollow stems are covered with the dark green leaves that look a bit like coarse celery. During June and July, an ornamental umbel of greeny yellow flowers appear, with a similar appearance to parsnip and fennel.
Levisticum officinale reaches 1.5-1.8m (5-6ft) in height during the early summer but dies right back in the winter. The unsightly collapsed stems can be cut down to ground level. However, it is worth-while leaving a few of the upright hollow stems for ladybirds to hibernate in.
Lovage is a stimulant with similar reactions to angelica, to which is related. In traditional Chinese medicine, a related plant, Levisticum chinensis is used to relieve pre menstrual tension.
All parts of this herb can be used in various ways – in the kitchen, bathroom and medicine chest.
Medicinally, lovage is used for stimulation of digestion and as a remedy for an upset stomach. Lovage can also help get rid of flatulence. It can also be used to reduce water retention and can also be used as a deodorant.
Lovage seeds, leaves and stems have a similar flavour to celery and can be used in soups, salads and rice dishes. The leaf stalks and stem bases can be blanched and eaten as you would celery.
Lovage tea can be made from the dried leaves creating a very agreeable aroma.
The fruit and root are used as flavouring in liqueurs
Back to my soup, this is a wonderfully fragrant concoction and the rice adds a “padding” element that is needed for a winter dish. I love the combination of lemon and lovage and I have a roast chicken recipe that combines the two ingredients, so that was the basis for my soup idea. If you have any left-over chicken or chicken stock and are not vegetarian, then use that for the base of this soup, it would be fabulous! However, as I am entering this soup into Jac’s (Tinned Tomatoes) No Croutons Required (February is Fresh Herbs) as well as my own Herbs on Saturday event, I kept this particular batch of soup vegetarian, as is required for the No Croutons Required challenge.
If you don’t have access to fresh lovage, and mine has just withered in the sub-zero temperatures, than you can use dried lovage; if you cannot access lovage at all, then add celery seeds to the soup – most commercial celery seeds are in fact lovage seeds, so you will get a whiff of the desired flavour. That is all for my first Herbs on Saturday post – the “Blog Hop” below will continue until the 29th February, and ANY herbs can be used for your entries. See you tomorrow for another weekend event, Slow Sunday…….have a wonderful weekend, Karen.
I am entering this recipe into Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker (host for February) and Caroline from Caroline Makes new monthly event, AlphaBakes. The letter for this month is “L”, and lemons it is then!
And also as it is a seasonal recipe, I am also entering into Ren’s Simple and in Season event.
Herbs on Saturday
1. If you make any recipe with herbs on a Saturday or during the week, please add your recipe/blog post link here. The recipe does NOT have to be vegetarian.
2. This a Blog Hop, so you can see and share all of your Herb recipes/blog posts as well as discover other recipes and other blog posts too, it’s a great way of meeting new people and discovering new recipes!
3. To add your recipe to the blog hop, you need to link to me and add the Herbs on Saturday badge somewhere on your post page. To link to me, the URL: http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2012/02/herbs-on-saturday-and-a-bowl-of-wild-garlic-lemon-lovage-soup.html needs to be added in your post at least once, as a link.
4. You can enter as many times throughout the month; this Blog Hop will close on the 29th February and a new one will start on the next Saturday in March.
5. The Herbs on Saturday badge can be grabbed from my side-bar and you can also display the badge on your blog if you wish.
6. Have fun and don’t forget you can add and enter as many times as you want, with any herbs that have been used in your recipe/dish.