Tuesday, June 05, 2018

History of lovage (Levisticum officinale)

The Greeks, who called it ligustikon, chewed the seed to aid digestion and relieve flatulence-a medicinal use which was promoted in the Middle Ages by Benedictine monks. According to the Ancient Greek physician and pharmacist, Dioscorides, lovage was referred to as ligusticum because it grew wild in shady areas in the Alps of Liguria. He described the plant’s characteristics as resembling dill with a thin stalk and subtly aromatic leaves.

The common name is derived from the fact that in many European countries the herb had a traditional reputation as a love charm or aphrodisiac. The botanical name is a corruption of the earlier name Ligusticum, after Liguria, Italy, where it once grew in abundance. 12th century Hildegard of Bingen used lovage as an important cooking spice. Lovage flowers are attractive to tiny parasitic wasps whose young prey on garden pests such as cutworms and tent caterpillars.

In the middle ages lovage was one of the most important cooking herbs and was a popular salat (salad) herb and often eaten fresh. Lovage preparations were used during the Middle Ages mainly as a emmenagogue, carminativum, direticum and remedy for various skin ailments and were mentioned by Lonicerus (1564) and Matthiolus (1501-1577) according to Madaus (1938). The medieval sourcebook: the Capitulary de Villis of 9th century contains lovage as one of many culinary and medical plants that should be cultivated in every imperial garden (Arnold 1923).

The colonists in New England found an additional use for the dried root. They nibbled bits of it in church to chase away the weariness caused by long and tedious sermons. In 1892, J. Bornmuller found a form of the plant, Levisticum officinale, growing wild in the mountains of Persia and southwestern Asia. It most likely spread later to Italy as a cultivated plant from the Near East region.

In the late nineteenth century, lovage was used as a confectionery ingredient in France. It also flavored preserves and was often used with borage to spice soups. Also, in France, Piedmont, and Wallis, the leaves and stalks were cooked like celery.
History of lovage (Levisticum officinale)