Lovage is a hardy perennial plant, which can spread like weeds. Luckily, all the parts of this herb are usable, and both seeds and leaves have a yeast flavour. You can use the plant in any formula that calls for parsley or celery. You can consume it if you need to reduce your salt intake because the savoury flavour means that you don’t need to use as much salt. The stems are great in sugar-based dishes because they can be candied.
Add some leaves to plates of mixed greens. If you put them with brassicas etc., it reduces the need for salt.
The root is used a lot in medicine, mainly for problems regarding the urinary tract and for cleansing the body, as it is a diuretic. Tea made from the leaf is used to treat sore throats and problems with the tonsils. It is also used in cosmetic preparations. Stems can be used instead of celery, and the flower yields a sweet-smelling oil. The seeds are typically used in seasoned oils and vinegar, which steep in the fluid.
Lovage herb is used a lot in Europe, notably in German and Italian cooking. It can also be found in ‘Maggi’ as part of the yeast extract. The name is actually derived from the words ‘love ache’ because in times gone by they made love potions from it.
Start with a bought plant, or start seeds inside and set them out in the ground after the frosts have passed. In my opinion the best time to sow the seeds in early autumn. Lovage will take around three years to reach its full height. One plant usually is adequate, yet it might be wise to produce another plant if something happens to your first one. Lovage will require a 3-foot (90 cm) square space. As a result of its 5-foot (1.5 meters) eventual height, lovage is best situated at the edge or back of the herb garden or veg plot.
Plant lovage in an area where it gets full sun where it will thrive, but it will be happy with a couple of patches of shade during the day, especially in hotter weather. It favours sandy, loamy soil. Add a lot of natural matter when planting – in contrast to other Mediterranean herbs, it prefers rich earth. Keep the dirt damp to the touch consistently, yet not wet. On the off chance that the dirt or soil dries out, the leaves will, in general, look very sickly. Add a good scattering of grass clippings as a mulch to help hold water. Space plants 18 inches (45 cm)apart. You can also grow this herb in containers. However, you will need a huge pot because of the enormous root framework. I would suggest a pot 12 – 24 inches (30 – 60cm) deep and wide.
In the first year, you should be able to get a lot of leaves from your plant. Gather them in first thing in the morning when the dew has dried. In the following year, you can begin to use the stalks and roots if you wish, as the plant will be able to withstand it. If you intend to collect the whole plant, roots and all, do it in October. Take leaves from an external perspective of the plant first. The new growth will resprout from areas where you collect. Try not to wash the leaves until you are about to use them, as it can make them wilt if you do.
New leaves can be kept in the crisper cabinet of the fridge for up to a week. Harvest seeds when the seed heads become earthy-coloured. Cut off whole heads and put them in a paper bag to dry. When they have dried, roll the seed heads in your hands to get rid of the earthy coloured casings. Collect the roots by digging them up with a garden fork. Clean off any excess earth. However, please don’t wash them right away. You can keep them in the cool section of your fridge for a little while before using them.
Lovage plant is not affected by insects or diseases, and there are no such problems that your will face while growing it. However, take general precautions to avoid any unwanted outcomes.
For more information or assistance with this article, or if you want to add something that you feel is relevant, we would love to hear from you via the Contact Us page.
Check out some of the varieties of lovage that are available:
If you would like to know how to use lovage in your cooking, check out this article by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall