Lovage (ligusticum. levisticum)
In our world of cooking we very often put Salt and Pepper together as a set of seasonings. Aspicius, a Roman chef, mentions Pepper and Lovage together just as we consider pepper and salt. Apparently the flavor of lovage has the ability to inhabit every dish in which it is used as a typical Mediterranean dish.
Lovage was grown all over Europe, even areas where the climate was in fact pretty harsh. In the later days and the present, parsley and celery leaves have been used as substitutes. It is true that both of these are related to the family of herbs to which lovage belongs and they have a milder flavor than lovage, which may have something to do with it's diminished use. Much of Roman cooking has very bold flavors due to the spices used. Some historians believe that the reason for this was that they were eating off pewter plates which contained lead. A symptom of lead poisoning is a diminishing ability to taste mild foods.
In mentioning the herb Aspicius does not bother to tell the reader what part of the lovage plant is used, root, leaves , or seeds. In fact all three can be used , however, since the herb was so often coupled with pepper is probable that the seed was used most often.
This was a very largely used spice not far after the use of pepper and lovage. Cumin seed was what was mainly used , first toasted in an oven or dry pan and then ground very like pepper. This spice is also used extensively in recipes from Asia, and the Middle East. However, cumin has been all but completely left out of the recipes of the Italian world. The green leaves of the cumin plant can also be used and can be a very good additive to some dishes as well.
Cumin is fairly easy to grow in climates which are mild and temperate. It is said that one Theophrastus (Theo. VII-iii-2), has indicated that while planting (sowing) cumin seed, "One should curse and shout," to encourage the cumin seed to grow and flourish. Pliney has indicated that Cumin encourages the human pregnancy. Women were more likely to get pregnant faster and more surely if the odor of the crushed cumin seed were smelt during sexual intercourse (Plin. N.H. XX-lvii). Another saying was that cumin caused the facial features to turn pale, as in sickness or death. It is said that Julius Vindex, among others, who lived during the same period as Nero , took in large amounts of cumin seed in order to provide false hope to those who were false flatters awaiting a possible increase in their share of their inheritance.
Patrick Faas, "Around the Roman Table," Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2005 (ISBN 0-226-23347-2 (paper)