Bulgarian Mystery Herb is Lovage
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Tom Roberts
Posted on: August 22, 2004

Thanks for responding, here’s a photo of the plant.

The plant is lovage (Levisticum officinale). In Bulgarian it is known as ‘devesil’. Typically this herb is not used in the dried form, so I am very interested to hear that your wife’s grandmother used it dried and not fresh. We have always subscribed to the dogma that lovage can only be used fresh; perhaps we need to revisit that!

For more information on ‘devesil’, see Gernot Kazter’s Spice Dictionary entry for lovage:

http://www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katzer/engl/Levi_off.html

One other thing: we would not characterize the plant’s odour as dill-like. Although dill and lovage belong to the same botanical family (the Apiaceae), the aroma of lovage is much more like celery than dill. Sometimes, though, I notice that people who are not cooks or herbophiles have difficulty distinguishing between the different herb scents and flavours. Once you get a little familiar with some you will begin to see how herbs such as lovage and dill are so different and are therefore used in very different dishes.

[Original Question:]

My wife’s grandmother brought a herb to the US from Bulgaria over 80 years ago, she called it divisil, I am unsure of the spelling. She dried the leaves and used it as a spice in cooking. It has a very strong scent some people think it smells like dill. Have you ever heard of it? I can photograph the plant if it would help.

None of our name databases have the name ‘divisil’ in it so I have no idea what this plant might be. If you can send a photo perhaps I can provide some clues as to what it might be. When sending photos be sure to keep the total size of the photo and message under 2 megabytes in size otherwise your message will be rejected by our mail server.

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