Lovage is one of those old herbs that we don’t often grow or use in North America. I’m not sure the reason. It’s a perennial and grows easily in semi-shade. It also looks lovely, rather like giant Italian parsley. It tastes intriguing—a cross between celery and parsley with hints of anise or fennel. It boasts vast amounts of quercetin, an antioxidant known to provide relief from allergies (I will try anything these days). Back in ancient Greek and Roman times, lovage was renowned for its medicinal and culinary properties; it was believed to cure everything from rheumatism to sore throats and indigestion. Lovage also has antiseptic and deodorizing properties, which is why medieval travellers tucked the leaves into their shoes. And as the name suggests, lovage was thought to be an aphrodisiac (from smelly feet to raging desire—that’s quite a feat for one plant).
Imagine my delight when I saw bunches of lovage at the Southlands Farm Market this past Sunday, courtesy of Dog Gone Farm. I knew immediately what I was going to do with it—make pesto (apparently a theme this year for me). Two notes: Lovage has an intense flavor, which I decided to counter with a bit more garlic than usual. And lovage is an herb: if you’re not going to use it right away, either put in a container of water or wrap the stems in a damp paper towel and store in the fridge.
- 5-6 stalks of lovage, leaves included (the stems resemble thin celery stalks), roughly chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic (we’re using Georgian, which has just come to market), roughly chopped
- ½ cup walnut pieces (or pumpkin seeds, whichever you have is fine)
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¾ to 1 cup olive oil (enough to make a paste)
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Throw the lovage, garlic and walnuts into a food processor and give it a whir. You want everything coarsely ground. Add in ¼ cup olive oil and whir some more. Keep adding oil till you have the consistency you like. Stir in the lemon juice and salt, and the cheese if you’re using it. If you’ve time, let the pesto sit for at least an hour to mellow out the flavors. It’ll last for two weeks in the fridge. You can toss with pasta, or serve with lamb (eliminate the parmesan), or do what we do: serve it on Seedy Crackers.