Lovage is a hardy perennial, Levisticum officinale, and a member of the parsley family, Apiaceae. It’s native to a region including the southern Mediterranean and central Asia. Lovage is grown for its aroma and flavor that make a great substitute for celery. The leaves, seeds and roots are all used in cooking.
The entire plant looks like celery, but on a larger scale. It’s a tall plant that can grow to six feet or taller depending on the soil and growing conditions. This herb grows bigger each year for the first four years or so. The leaf stems are similar to celery stalks, but thinner. The aroma and taste are similar to that of celery with a hint of anise. The leaves are especially fragrant and somewhat pungent. White flowers are small and draw beneficial insects to the garden.
Cut back the entire plant during flowering and new growth will spring from the perennial root crown for a second harvest in the fall. Every few years the roots should be dug up to freshen the plant and induce vigorous growth. The roots with a couple of ‘eyes’ can be re-planted to form new plants, but you only really need one lovage plant. They’re large and the aroma is quite strong, so a little goes a long way. Better to give the roots to a friend with instructions to bury them a couple of inches in the soil. When planting lovage, make sure to select an area where this tall plant will not shade out other herbs or flowers. Due to the long and stubborn tap-roots this plant is difficult to move to a more suitable location with partial shade.
Sparingly use young fresh leaves on salads as the flavor is quite strong and may be an acquired taste. In noodle, rice or vegetable dishes the taste of lovage balances well with garlic, chives and lemon. When using fresh leaves in any recipe start with about 1 teaspoon chopped leaves as the taste can overpower other flavors in the dish. The leaves and stems can substitute for celery in soup, stocks, casseroles and vegetable dishes. Dried leaves retain their flavor and scent, and freezing the herb for winter use is also an option.
Seeds are aromatic and used in place of celery seed or fennel seed. They can be sprinkled on cooked dishes, added to mayonnaise-based salads, or in bread dough. Grind the seeds with sea salt to make an interesting seasoning that can be added to one’s own taste at the table. Blended with other herbs, lovage makes a tasty salt substitute.
38 thoughts on “Lovage An Herbal Substitute For Celery”
I found the seeds difficult to germinate. Out of an entire packet I got only one plant. Guess that will be plenty for my needs. Hope I can keep it growing in this Arizona heat.
Wow, only one plant to germinate. That sounds like my one experience with Lemon Grass! It wasn’t very good, but there were only 10 seeds in the packet. One germinated and it never made it to transplant stage. 🙁
Good luck with your Lovage! Let us know how it goes, ok? I am curious as to how you’ll use it.
I have a huge lovage plant in my herb garden in North /Central Arizonia . It is the first one to grow each spring. It I s Easter and it is already 20 inches tall.
Do you have any ideas for usage?
I would first use it as a celery substitute in cooking soups or crock-pot dishes. I’m curious if you’ve tried to eat the leaf stems or stalks like a piece of raw celery? With cream cheese or peanut butter smeared on, of course. Let us know how you like it!
Plant Lovage has been in family for three generations. Brought here from Germany
by my grandfather. It has been transplanted from original plant a MILLION times!!
It makes the best Chicken Dumpling Soup…..yum, yum.
Grows well in midwestern states. Never knew name of plant until my daughter looked
it up recently.22
How cool is that, Barbara! I can’t imagine having a plant last from generation to generation as I came from a mobile family with lots of addresses over the years.
Thanks for your tip on using lovage in chicken soup! Will have to give a try.
I bought a plant years and years ago. It spread out sort of everywhere (self-seeded, maybe?)
I brought one of the plants to our new home and it’s grown very large with another one close by. I like to just grab a leaf every now and then to munch on while I’m in the garden. I have used the leaves for for garnish and chopped up on salads. Never eaten the stalks though 😉
I’m in ND and yes, it grows very well here…Zone 3 or 4.
That’s great to know, Connie. Would you say the leaves tasted like celery leaves when eating them out of hand?
Oh, is it planted in full sun to get that great growth? We have lots of shade here and it can be a problem for growing veggies and herbs too.
I have one in central Massachusetts for 30 years! I pick and naturally dry stalk, stem, leaf in sun, final dry in low oven if humid outside. I have used it as a rub on corn-on-the-cob. Just melt butter in a large cast iron pan and place whole dried stem and leaf in hot pan to crisp (until dark green) and sprinkle salt and/or pepper, or garlic powder for that matter, to flavor. Powdered Sage might be good, too! After it looks crisp, I crush the Lovage into small fine pieces and then roll cooked corn-on-the-cob in the mix. It is so so so delicious. Then I eat whatever Lovage is left in the pan until I almost burst.
Too cool, Gina! It’s great to know how these uncommon herbs can be used in tasty ways.
I love that idea of rolling corn on the cob in your buttered herbs – thanks for sharing! I’ll be trying it this summer for sure.
6-22-16 Have grown lovage for years in SW Idaho. Letting plants go to seed this year for what else…celery seed. elsey seed you buy in the stores in 90-95% lovage seed. My two plants are standing almost 10 feet tall right now. They face east and are shaded from the hot afternoon sun by the house.
Ten feet tall! That’s great. You’ll have enough seed for a long while I guess.
Thanks for your comment about the store-bought celery seed being mostly lovage seed. Who knew? I do like that stuff in salads, the seeds I mean. Do you use the leaves in your cooking?
I live in Oxfordshire, UK and grow lovage successfully in light soil and full sun. Plant now 10 ft tall. I am interested to read previous comments on uses for the stem and leaf as I have only used the seed in stocks and stews as a celery substitute. I particularly like the idea of combining with see salt for use as a condiment and will add to cheese scones today to accompany tomato soup for lunch.
Well, Eileen, if you weren’t so far away in the UK, I’d come over for lunch. It sounds delicious. And your plant magnificent!
Adding your herb to sea salt for a condiment is a great idea. Thanks for your tips!
I have 2 HUGE Lovage plants. I use it in anything I would add celery to, but be very careful on how much is used as its extremely strong in comparison. It can almost ruin a dish if overused.
I also dry it and chop it to use in soups and sauces.
Thanks for the tips! Sounds like a little Lovage can go a loooooong way.
My lavage plant came from a piece of my fathers plant that came from a piece of his fathers plant. For 50 years or more we didn’t know the correct name and called it “soup celery”.
I love to put two or three whole leaves in a pot of soup, or go to the garden in the morning, pick a leaf, and shred it on my fried eggs. Delicious.
Way to keep it going! That’s an old plant by anybody’s definition. 50 years!
I love the name “soup celery” and I surely hadn’t thought of sprinkling bits on fried eggs.
Thanks for sharing your experience!
I have had my plant for many years now in western Massachusetts. Does anyone know if it is chemically/ botanically related to celery? Celery is recommended to help with gout and I prefer to use what I have, which is: lovage.
I’m all for keeping things simple, so definitely use what you already have growing strong, right?
Lovage and celery are fairly closely related as they are in the same botanical family, Apiaceae, but so is poison hemlock! Unfortunately, we can’t count on plants that are related to always have a similar profile with respect to helpfulness in treating medical conditions. Interestingly, another member of this family is known as “goutweed“!
However, lovage has been used in folk medicine for many concerns including gout. Since you’re already using the plant for many years I think you’re safe to go on using it.
I love that we’re all a bunch of herb geeks!
I have a single lovage plant (thanks woodchucks) that I have put into a large planter on my patio. It’s growing well, but I’m not sure how to care for it once the weather gets colder here in Massachusetts. Any tips?
So, Sara, are you saying that the woodchucks ate the rest? Darn groundhogs, as we call them in PA! Glad they left you the one plant.
I think most of the plants that folks have mentioned here have been in ground based on their longevity. Now that yours is protected in a pot, do you have a space where you can temper it from outside to inside temps? Where could you put it indoors for the winter? I’ve never grown lovage in a pot nor have I overwintered one inside, so I have to say good luck! Perhaps another herb geek can chime in on this for you….
I bought a plant a couple years ago and was intrigued by it but didn’t use it. I pulled my gigantic hardy beautiful plant out of the garden because it was taking it over and creating lots of shade….it had seeded…..and the tender little plants are everywhere and yummy…so I’m hoping it will grow again next year again? We’re in northern NV and I think it will freeze so I grabbed some to save to eat. Loved reading everthing others do with it. Can’t wait to try their ideas. Thanks so much!
Sometimes things just work out that way, don’t they?! The little seedlings might not have survived, but it sounds like the bigger mother plant would have. Let us know what you did with your Lovage!
I make a lot of bone broth because I have/had arthritis & now I no longer have arthritis symptoms. I use a lot of loveage in my bone broth. It adds so much flavor! After simmering the bones with loveage, garlic, onions, etc. for 24 hours or more, I strain out bones, loveage, etc. & throw them out. I use the broth mainly for soups. Depending on what kind of soup I make, I often add chopped loveage leaves to the soup as well. I love the flavour & don’t find overpowering in soups. I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada & I harvest loveage all summer because it grows so fast. It have it in a partially shaded spot in my garden. I dehydrate most of it but if it gets big stalks, I chop it up & put it in the freezer.
Thank you so much for your tips on how to use lovage. Do you use a dehydrator or oven to dry it?
It’s so great that the bone broth has helped you overcome your arthritis. How often do you consume it?
Our lovage plant is about 4 years old 10 feet. Yes ten feet tall a spectacular aroma. And we live 10 miles from Brighton West Sussex. A very tasty and useful plant in lots of ways.
Wow! I’d love to see such a plant. I take it that when lovage is planted in just the right place it can really put on a show. Thanks for sharing!
Not sure if what we have is lovage, but we have what seems to be that growing wild all over our farm. Wanted to know what to do with it.
If the plant looks very similar and it smells or tastes like celery with a hint of anise, I’d say you’ve got it right.
Are there any old-time gardeners or greenhouse herbalists that you could take a sample to? Call around the area to find out who grows herbs and ask whether they could identify your plant. Do this rather than tasting something you’re unsure of — just to be safe!
Let us know if you do have it and how you end up using it, ok? Manna from heaven!
So nice to have this growing on your farm… where do you live?
curious if anyone uses the stems as “straw” for drinks, like Bloody Mary’s? I have one plant, the the south side of house, full sun, is beginning to “travel”. I really haven’t done much with it except, soups and stuffing. Am thinking of grinding dray with sea salt for a nice spice for replacement with celery salt.
Not sure about the straws idea, but I like it. Try a little beef broth in your next Bloody Mary – we call them Bloody Boars and they’re delicious.
Love the salt replacement too!
I have a lovage plant that the birds planted last year (at least I think it is a lovage). This year it has grown over 6 feet tall in a shaded spot on the north side of my house in Alberta, Canada. However, I’m beginning to wonder if it is a lovage plant or something else. I’ve put some in salads this summer and eaten some just off the plant and it doesn’t taste like anything. There is no celery taste. Is it possible that it is some other kind of plant? It fits the description of lovage and it matches the photos for leaves and seed heads, etc. Is there some other plant that looks the same?
The carrot family has literally thousands of members so surely there could be a plant that looks very similar to lovage. When lovage leaves are crushed they should smell like celery, so I wouldn’t eat any more until verifying the identification with an expert. Did you know that Poison Hemlock is related to it?
Make sure you can identify the plant with at least three characters to be sure of your identification.
Good luck! Let us know what you find out.
Thank you for this great post about lovage. I love things with long histories. And lovage has a very long history. I have had mine only for a few years. Transplanted it once. I appreciate the tips about digging up the roots every few years. Mine does seem to be needing some cleaning up.
I also appreciate the tips for using it. I came to reassure myself that I could use it as a substitute for celery and got a whole lot more. I am definitely looking at making my own lovage salt.
I love putting a leaf or two in in my water. And yes, the stems that have gotten big enough to hollow out like a straw is one way I add the flavor to my water.
Thanks again for the great post. And a shout out to all who shared their stories.
The best part of usethatherb definitely is replies and comments from curious and helpful folk.
Thanks for chiming in and good luck with your lovage. 🙂
My cousin give me this plant w years ago ( so tiny) she told me it’s a celery. I planted in my garden, I was “wow”to my surprise , I’m 5’4 tall and this plant is just keep growing nit its taller than me.😀I don’t really like the strong smell though. But looks pretty in my garden.
That’s cool, Maggie. I love big plants! Did you try eating any of it?