How To Make Lovage Syrup
Winter in Southern California is an ideal time to plant cool-season herbs like anise, arugula, borage, chervil, chamomile, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, garlic chives– and one of our favorite under-utilized plants: lovage.
Lovage is a bright-green perennial herb with yellow flowers and inconspicuous leaves that look like celery and taste like it, too. The herb grows well from seed. (Start it indoors 6-8 weeks before planting outside, sow 1/4 inch deep, and seeds will germinate in 10-20 days.) In Southern California, where winters are wetter than summers, lovage grows beautifully when started in January.
As the Orange County Herb Society points out, snails tend to be the only pest that plagues lovage when started in the winter, if only because snails love the cool, wet winters of Southern California. Aim to control them before spring hits, and you can save yourself a lot of grief in the warmer weather (when they will inevitably multiply).
Once harvested, lovage makes a great salad green. It’s also good for juicing or consuming raw– but another great way to use it is by making lovage syrup– an intriguing pantry item that we first discovered in one of our favorite California cookbooks, Alice Waters’ My Pantry.
The book, which features beautiful ink illustration’s from Waters’ daughter Fanny Singer, is filled with amazing, no-frills recipes for making spices, preserves, chutneys, syrups, simple stocks, and other pantry items like salted kumquats and sage-roasted nuts. All of the recipes are simple, including this one for lovage syrup:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup lovage leaves
- 1 cup water
Put sugar and water into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has just dissolved. Pour the warm syrup into the jar of a blender. Add the lovage leaves, cover, and blend slowly and carefully. Once the leaves are roughly pureed, increase the speed for about 10 seconds until the syrup is very smooth. Pour through a fine mesh sieve, transfer to a clean bottle, and store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for 4 weeks.
Waters recommends using lovage syrup (which tastes like angelica and fennel) to make a savory aperitif. It pairs well with Prosecco and Champagne, but it can also be used to make a delightful non-alcoholic spritzer. Here’s one such recommendation:
- 1 Tbsp lovage syrup
- 8 oz sparkling water
- Squeeze of lemon to taste
Fill an 8-oz glass with ice, drizzle with one tablespoon of lovage syrup, top off with sparkling water, and garnish with a squeeze of lemon. The stalks of lovage are hollow and can be used as straws for an extra-green twist that is sure to impress friends. Cut off the ends and sip liberally. Enjoy!