The Greens of Spring: cutting celery and lovage

march-2009-0441
Cutting celery is one of the most underutilized herbs that I know of. It has the flavor of stalk celery without its potential aggression, and can be used in almost any herb mixture. It grows like a weed and can be snipped at for nine months of the year. It seeds itself like a weed, too, so once your clump is established, keep cutting it back to prevent seeding. Throw a few stalks in the pot every time you make broth or stock, chiffonade it into rice or bulgar pilafs, throw a chopped handful into nearly any mixed greens dish. It seems to support the other flavors without taking over.
Lovage, shown below, is another matter. It grows best in semi-shade in our sunny climate. It’s loaded with quercetin and other antioxidants and has a fascinating celery-juniper flavor, , and I wouldn’t be without it, but the flavor is insidious and can dominate a dish. A few leaves are plenty for most dishes and a leaf or two chiffonaded into a vinaigrette will give it more complexity. More will unbalance the flavors, at least to my palate. My favorite way to use it is in Lovage Pesto, where it is used lavishly but the garlic keeps the lovage under control. Lovage will shoot to seed and die if you let it, so keep cutting if you want to keep it. Also, bear in mind that the plant gets pretty big, and site it where it can have a couple of square feet to itself when it matures.

Lovage Pesto
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
About 6 cups of lovage leaves, no stems, loosely packed
1and ½ cups full-flavored olive oil
1 cup walnut pieces
1½ teaspoons sea salt

For this recipe, the food processor is okay. Chop the garlic in your food processor, then add the lovage leaves and half the oil and process until the leaves are coarsely chopped. Add the salt, the rest of the oil, and the walnuts, and process only until the nuts are coarsely ground. Let mellow for an hour before use. It can be tossed with pasta and parmesan like other pestos, or makes a good marinade for fish (add a squeeze of lemon if you wish.) It can be brought to the table with roast lamb as a sauce to dip into sparingly. A spoonful is a good addition to a simple vinaigrette. Tightly covered, it will keep about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
For more on herbs, visit the “recipes” page of my website and click on “herbs.”
april-2009-013
Lovage in early spring. It gets three times this size in a couple of months.

4 responses to this post.

  1. i am going to grow those things, i had lovage a few years ago it had a nice taste.
    my old dutch neigbour used to lovage maggi plant. i guess as he said it was like some seasoning from that company.
    my mother has a great big celery plant im sure its this one. its very strong and has big thick stems in the middle.
    steve

    Reply

  2. Thanks for your post. I came away with lovage from a plant exchange this past weekend and don’t know anything about it…except the lovely flavor of the leaves. It’s nestled in my herb garden now and I hope to harvest the leaves for the rest of this season.

    Reply

  3. Are the stalks of cutting celery hollow? I think I have the cutting celery by mistake, and that would explain why I don’t get good stalks. The tops are great for soup or as a garnish. George

    Reply

    • Posted by wooddogs3 on March 23, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      They can be rather hollow, but also if you have regular celery but let it overwinter and go to seed, the seedstalk will be hollow. So it’s hard to tell what you have. If the stems are very narrow, more like parsley stems, then it’s cutting celery. The leaves of both are good for seasoning.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: