Herbs on Saturday and a Bowl of Wild Garlic, Lemon & Lovage Soup

Wild Garlic, Lemon and Lovage Soup

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

Caution: Lovage should not be taken during pregnancy or if suffering from kidney disease. Always consult a qualified medical herbalist before using it for medicinal purposes.

Wild Garlic, Lemon and Lovage Soup

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.

Wild Garlic, Lemon & Lovage Soup

Serves 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 40 minutes
Region British
By author Karen S Booth
A deliciously fresh and delicate soup with heirloom herbs that is perfect for a cold winter's day.


  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch wild garlic, finely chopped (Or, chives finely chopped)
  • 1/2 head celery, finely copped
  • 2 stems fresh lovage, finely chopped (Or, 1/2 teaspoon dried lovage)
  • 1 lemon, grated zest and juice
  • 200g rice
  • 1l vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper, to season
  • a little butter or vegetable oil for sweating the vegetables


A deliciously  fresh and delicate soup with heirloom herbs that is perfect for a cold winter's day.


Step 1 Add the chopped onion, wild garlic and celery to a large saucepan with a little butter or oil and sweat over a medium heat for 5 minutes.
Step 2 Add the rice and stir before adding the vegetable stock, chopped lovage, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt and pepper to season. Cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until rice is cooked and vegetables are soft.
Step 3 Check the seasoning before serving in warm soup bowls with crusty bread and/or croutons.

 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.


  1. says

    I don’t think I’ve ever used lovage in my cooking, but am determined to source some to make this lovely soup. Does it grow well near the sea? I have a herb garden in France so will plant some there to use on holidays.
    Love the idea of a herb blog hop, I hope to join in:-) Jude x

    • says

      We are not far from the sea in Yorkshire and France, so yes it does okay here! In France it is called “La livèche”…..and is easy to find in nurseries. It has a subtle celery, lemony, savoury flavour Jude and is my favourite herb. Karen

  2. says

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen lovage in the farmer’s market here in the Pacific NW. I’ll have to look for it when the market starts up in the spring. I bookmarked this recipe in hopes that I can try this beautiful soup. But I’m sure it is wonderful even without the herb.

  3. says

    Super-gorgeous recipe that I’ll book mark to make while it is still bitterly cold. My lovage is in a sad state too, so celery seed it shall have to be. Thanks for sharing this, as well as the botanical & historical information.

  4. says

    This soup is the most beautiful colour and is full of flavours that I love. I will certainly try to join in with your Herbs on a Saturday. In fact, after this cold snap, I will be on the hunt for more herbs to plant myself! x

  5. says

    This is a beautiful lemony yellow soup that looks so comforting! I really like the tangy flavor of lemons and this is just a great way to incorporate it! I’ve never heard of lovage before but I’ve certainly seen celery seeds in grocery stores. I wish I can have a bowl of this soup now!

  6. says

    Not a very common herb around these parts. I have never seen it in the shops. It is nice to know that one can sub with something else. Your soup looks fabulously delicious Karen!! But then again, everything you make always does. xxoo

    • says

      Thanks Ren! Chives is not a terribly good substitute, but wild garlic tends to be milder and sweeter than normal bulb garlic, so chives is the best sub for it really.

  7. says

    Delicious and beautiful looking soup! Feel free to link up to Alphabakes this month as the letter is “L”. I know it’s not strictly a bake but I think it would be a great entry :)

  8. duonyte says

    My lovage is not up yet, too early for us even with the freakishly mild winter we are having, but I have bookmarked this to try later on, in the spring! So many good things in this recipe!

  9. says

    I’ve never ever seen lovage around here, but I’m adding it to my kitchen garden this year. I’ve decided to devote what little space we have to herbs and try to grow the ones that are impossible to get here (lovage, rue, borage, horehound, etc.).

  10. Denise says

    Can’t say I have ever cooked with lovage – will have to keep an eye open for it so I can get the full flavour of this lovely looking soup.

    • says

      Lovage is a wonderful old fashioned herb and I use it a lot. It is particularly good with chicken, cheese, eggs and is also great when used in soups too.

  11. Fiona Matters says

    I’ve learnt tonnes in this post. I didn’t even know lovage was a herb -(neither does my spell checker apparently). The title of your blog now makes a lot more sense. I love the idea of lemon soup. I’ve occasionally put rice in soup but haven’t seen it very often. Lovely recipe. Many thanks.


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