Lovage leaf, botanically known as Levisticum officinalis, is often called "wild celery", and is native to much of Europe and southwestern Asia, with Hungary and France being the largest producing countries. The word "lovage" comes from "love ache", "ache" being a medieval name for parsley. This plant has been cultivated in Europe for centuries, where they utilize the entire plant. The leaves are used as an herb, the roots as a vegetable, and the seeds as a spice (especially in southern European cuisine), similar to fennel seeds. Lovage tea is drunk to stimulate digestion or applied to wounds as an antispetic. And, in the UK, an alcohol lovage cordial is traditionally mixed with brandy (2:1) as a winter drink.
Lovage is a perennial plant that grows five to six feet tall in just a matter of five years time. The stems and leaves are shiny green to yellow, and flowers are produced in umbels at the stem tops, and are yellow to yellowish-green. It flowers in late spring, and the fruit matures in the autumn.
This herbaceous plant has a strong celery flavor (and scent), with a hint of anise. Its unique flavor profile can be used much like you would use celery or parsley, just use a lighter hand because it is strong. It adds great flavor to soups, stews, salads, meats and potato dishes. It is also used as a natural salt substitute, and said to be an aphrodisiac.
While every part of this plant is edible, it is only the leaves that are steam distilled for the essential oil. The Eo, just like the herb itself, has a long history of being used to treat digestive problems and skin conditions. The essential oil is considered to be a middle note, and it has a warm, fresh, sweet and spicy green fragrance.