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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Levisticum officinale, an umbelliferous plant which grows in S. Europe and as far north as England. It resembles wild celery in appearance, and was formerly used in the same way, but is milder and sweeter with a distinctively warm, spicy fragrance.

Lovage was popular as a flavouring herb in classical times, and is often mentioned in apicius. The Romans called it ligusticum because it grew abundantly in Liguria. The altered form levisticum, common in late Latin, was the origin of the English and other modern names, and was later adopted as the botanical name. The hardier and coarser-flavoured plant which is sometimes called ‘Scotch’ or ‘black’ lovage, but whose correct name is alexanders, was given Ligusticum as its generic name (but has since lost it in favour of Smyrnium).