What is lovage - and how do you use it?

Farro with broad beans, ricotta salata, mint and lovage

Farro with broad beans, ricotta salata, mint and lovage

The name of this tall leafy herb sounds quaintly delicate, but lovage still packs plenty of punch. Its flavour is often compared to celery - and in French it's known as céleri bâtard or false celery. The German and Dutch common names, which reference Maggi soup seasoning (respectively, maggikraut and maggiplant), give more of a clue to its complexity.

Every bit of the plant - from root to seeds and stem - can be eaten. At Bar Liberty in Melbourne you might find a snack of fried potatoes with puréed mussels and lovage powder, while at Franklin in Hobart it crops up with clams, peas and fried bread. Firedoor chef Lennox Hastie became a fan of the herb working in France's three Michelin-starred La Maison de Marc Veyrat.

"It's got a musky spiciness like cumin and fennel," he says. Hastie enjoys lovage scattered over eggs, or in pasta. "Use it like nettle - blanch and incorporate it into the dough. It gives the pasta a verdant green colour and the flavour carries through."

Hastie also suggests candying the hollow stems and using lovage flowers and pollen the way you'd put fennel to work.

Try lovage in Danielle Alvarez's farro salad with broad beans, ricotta salata, mint and lovage.


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