Related to carrots, dill, and caraway, the leaves, root, and seeds of lovage (Levisticum officinale) are used in many European and Mediterranean cuisines.
In Germany, it is called Liebstöckel or Maggikraut. Its origin is unclear although it is likely native to the Near East and southern Europe. It likes warm weather but grows well as a perennial plant in home gardens where it is picked from April through the fall. Commercially, lovage is mainly grown in Thuringia and southern Germany.
Characteristics of Lovage
The leaves look like flat parsley and the seeds look like caraway or cumin seeds. They can be used in fish and meat dishes, chopped in salads, cooked in soups and stirred into Kraeuterquark, while the seeds are sometimes found in stews, roasts and even in bread and some cheeses. The young stems and leaves can be steamed as a vegetable.
Its flavor and smell are very similar to celery but slightly sharper and more bitter.
How to Serve Lovage
Lovage is referred to as Maggikraut because of the seasoning sauce, Maggi Wuerze, smells strongly of lovage. Lovage is an ingredient in Maggi salad sprinkles but it is not listed on the liquid seasoning bottle. Perhaps Liebstöckel is hiding behind the word "flavors" in the ingredient list.
Use fresh Liebstöckel leaves as a garnish on barley soup or lentil soup or cook with the vegetables when you make potato soup or Kurbissuppe (winter squash soup).
Or sprinkle a dried herb mixture over focaccia or "Fladenbrot" before baking, which includes any of the following; lovage, basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, and marjoram.
Pronunciation: leep - shtuck - el
Also Known As: der Liebstöckel, Lebensstock, Leberstock, Maggikraut
Alternate Spellings: Liebstoeckel