The lovage plant was once revered by the great civilizations of Europe, and intrepid explorers ensured that specimens were exported to their new kitchen gardens in foreign climes. Why did we fall in love with lovage in modern times?
Lovage is a relatively unknown herb which is unfortunate as all parts of the plant are edible and tasty too! The vigorous growth of a single plant will feed a kitchen throughout the season. Lovage has a sweet celery flavor with hints of citrus, parsley, and aniseed. Leaves can be used in soups, stews, and salads; their roots can be eaten as vegetables and stems can be candied like angelica. Seeds are delicious too and can be used fresh or dried in dishes that require a gentle heat infusion.
The ancient Greeks chewed lovage seeds to aid digestion, and across Europe the plant was believed to have aphrodisiac properties that may have influenced the "love" part of its common name, lovage. The deodorant and antiseptic properties of lovage leaves have been used to revitalize aching feet and hide unpleasant smells in the shoes of tired travelers.
On the positive side, lovage is slowly making a comeback and, like most foodie fashion trends, is often a staple ingredient in posh restaurant dishes, but you don't have to spend the money to taste this herbal treat. Lovage is easy to grow in your own yard, so give it a try!
Good products on Amazon for growing lovage:
Brief instructions for care
The lovage plant is a sturdy and vigorous grower. Source: vigilant20
|Common names||Lovage, love parsley, sea parsley, olfactory herb, maggi plant|
|Scientific name||Levisticum officinale|
|Height & Spread||6.5 feet high (2 m) by 3 feet (1 m) wide|
|Bright||Full sun to partial shade|
|floor||Fertile, well-drained sandy loam|
|water||Keep the soil moist but not wet|
|Pests & Diseases||Leaf miner, early / late rot|
All about lovage
The leaves of the plant face each other. Source: zenryaku
Levisticum officinale is the botanical name for the lovage plant, a member of the Apiaceae family that includes carrots, fennel, parsley, and celery. Common names are lovage, love parsley, sea parsley, olfactory herb and maggi plant. Lovage is native to the Mediterranean region of southern Europe and southwest Asia and is now widespread in temperate regions of the world including parts of North America, northern Europe including Scandinavian countries, and Australia.
Lovage is a clump-forming, hardy perennial that, after its foundation, becomes a majestic 2 m high and 1 m wide. It develops a dense rosette of basal leaf growth that extends to a height of about 2 feet (60 cm). The leaves are medium to dark green, shiny, pinnate with deeply serrated edges. They resemble the leaves of celery and flat-leaf parsley in appearance.
Thick, strong, hollow flower stalks appear in late spring to early summer and reach heights of 36–72 cm. Shorter, sparse leaves grow along the flower stalks. Lovage flowers form at the end of the long stems in clusters of small white to greenish-yellow flowers that form spherical umbels. The seeds are light to golden brown, ribbed and about 1 cm long.
As an herbaceous, hardy perennial, lovage dies completely in winter and reappears in early spring. Its vigorous growth rate means you can be harvesting leaves in a matter of weeks from the first sight of the first shoots. Young leaves have the sweetest taste and the more you harvest, the more leaves will be produced. As soon as the plants start to bloom, the leaves become bitter and inedible.
The leaves, stems, roots, and seeds of the lovage plants are all edible. Lovage stalks and leaves have a celery-like taste, but much sweeter, intense with a citrus flavor. They go well with potato, pasta and egg dishes. Lovage roots are treated as root vegetables and taste like celery or parsley root. They can be mashed, boiled, roasted, or added to soups and stews. Lovage seeds are sometimes called celery seeds and have a celery flavor with a hint of aniseed. Use the seeds as a condiment in dishes that require fennel or some mild heat.
Lovage sets free, but don't worry if you don't want giant lovage plants like triffids to break out in your garden. Seedlings are easy to spot and remove, or simply remove the seed heads before they mature.
Lovage, like other carrots, attract beneficial insects into the garden and the umbrella-shaped umbels are perfect landing platforms.
If you're new to growing, starting lovage with store-bought transplants is a great option. If not, it's easy to grow from seeds or a root division.
Plant the seeds in modules or pots 5-6 weeks before the last frost date and they will be ready to be sown outdoors when all threats of frost have passed. Space plants at a distance of 60 cm. Remember, you don't have to plant a lot of seeds as lovage plants are huge and one plant will provide more than enough leaves for a single household in one growing season.
The seeds can be sown directly in their final location of growth in late spring or early fall and the seedlings thinned to approximately 2 feet (60 cm) between plants. The distance is the same for transplants.
Fully grown plants can be divided in early spring or autumn and divisions immediately planted in their new location or potted in large pots.
Choose a bright, sheltered location to grow lovage, with moist, freely draining fertile soil. If necessary, the soil can be prepared with well-rotted fertilizer a few weeks before planting out.
Lovage grows well in containers when the conditions are right. Provide plenty of rich, moist, well-drained compost, and make sure your container is large and deep enough to hold a large plant with a long taproot and heavy enough not to blow over. Place your container plants in full sun or partial shade in a sheltered place in the garden.
Lovage flowers start out as small green buds. Source: candyhargett
Growing lovage is easy. Give plants the right conditions to grow and they will take care of themselves.
Sun and temperature
Lovage is a cool, temperate plant that prefers full sun with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. It will grow happily even in warmer climates if it is shaded by the midday sun. As hardy perennial plants, lovage thrives in USDA Zones 3 through 9 and can withstand freezing winter temperatures with little to no protection.
Water and moisture
The soil should be consistently moist, but not wet. Drip tubes are great for maintaining moisture levels, especially during dry spells, as lovage is not drought tolerant. Alternatively, you can water your plants in the morning or late at night, when the top inches of the soil feel dry. Use watering cans or hoses pointing at the floor. Watering is not necessary in winter when the plants are dormant.
Grow lovage in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Sandy loam is ideal. Prepare beds with plenty of abundant organic material to provide nutrients for the new growing season. Lovage likes a slightly acidic soil pH of 6.5.
Lovage grows best in nutrient-rich soils with lots of organic matter added. Dig well-rotted manure in before planting, and dress established plants with good quality manure or compost in the spring to provide additional nutrients. If plants look a little dull, give them a balanced liquid feed in spring and midsummer after a hard pruning to encourage new growth.
The more lovage leaves you harvest, the more it will produce, but at some point the plant will want to bloom. Once you've collected the seeds, cut back any flowering stems and the second flood of new leaves will appear in a few weeks. The leaves die in autumn. To keep the plant looking neat, cut all of the stems back to the ground in winter.
Lovage can be propagated by seed or division. Sow in spring, 5 to 6 weeks before the last frost date, sow under a roof. Sow in cell trays filled with compost and sprinkle lightly with compost or vermiculite. Germination can take up to 20 days. Gentle bottom heat at a temperature of 15 ° C should help speed things up.
The sowing can be carried out in the spring when there is a risk of frost or in early autumn directly in prepared beds. Dilute seedlings to a distance of 60 cm.
Established plants can be divided in the fall or early spring. To divide, carefully dig up the entire plant and use a spade, garden fork or sharp knife to divide it into the desired number of parts.
Harvest and storage
A healthy lovage plant provides an abundance of leaves. Source: John and Anni
Follow these tips to get the most out of your lovage crop and make it last longer.
Flowering makes the leaves bitter, so harvest as many leaves as you can before the first flower stalks appear. Trim the plants well to encourage fresh growth. Remove the seed heads when the seeds start to turn golden brown. Harvest roots when plants are divided or if you are growing a lot of lovage plants, harvest roots from established plants as needed.
The leaves are best used fresh. For a longer shelf life, place the stems in a glass of water in a cool place or wrap them in damp kitchen paper and store in the refrigerator until use. Roots are also best used fresh and can be kept for up to a week in a cool cupboard. Hang the seed heads in a warm and ventilated place to dry them completely. A paper bag that is placed over the seeds will help catch anything that falls. Dried seeds can be stored in an airtight container for a year.
The fully grown flowers remain greenish-yellow in color. Source: vigilant20
As with most plants, your growing lovage will thrive if you create the optimal conditions. Lovage is more forgiving than most plants and practically takes care of itself, although there are a problem or two to watch out for.
Lovage is pretty hassle-free and a pleasant plant to grow in the garden. A couple of things to keep in mind are that lovage likes to keep its soil on the moist side, so keep your plants hydrated. The vigorous growth and height of the lovage can also make it prone to contractions. If this happens, use stakes to provide extra support and move the plants to a more sheltered location.
Leaf miners are the main insect that attacks lovage by piercing leaf membranes and leaving unsightly road maps on the surface. When the leaves are first infected, spray them with an organic insecticide such as neem oil. Wash all leaves before eating.
Lovage is usually disease-free, but it can be affected by early or late rot, causing the leaves to turn yellow and die. By spreading Trichoderma harzianum on the planting site, you can take preventive measures early in the season. Good yard hygiene is essential to prevent rot, remove infected foliage, and move plants to more suitable growing conditions. Adequate air circulation is essential, and crop rotation every few years will reduce the likelihood of tuber blight returning. Late blight can be treated with organic fungicidal sprays such as sulfur, copper, neem oil, and potassium bicarbonate.
frequently asked Questions
Because they are related to celery, lovage leaves are similar in shape. Source: H-bomb
Q: How does lovage taste?
A: Lovage tastes like celery and parsley, but with a more intense sweet taste and hints of citrus and aniseed.
Q: What is lovage used for?
A: Use lovage leaves just like celery or parsley in salads, stews, and casseroles. The roots are also edible and should be roasted, mashed, or boiled as root vegetables. Seeds have a warm, celery-like taste and can be used as a condiment.
Q: Does lovage like sun or shade?
A: Grow lovage in full sun whenever possible. It also tolerates partial shade, which is particularly beneficial when lovage is grown in warmer climates.
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