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Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is a vigorous, hardy perennial herb. Lovage is cold hardy. Lovage grows to a height of around 1.5 metres at its maturity after four years.
Lovage has hollow stems.
The shiny leaves appear like those of celery or French parsley. They smell strongly of celery.
Lovage will grow to a height of about 2 metres (7 feet). It's a big plant and one alone is sufficient for a family.
The flowers are yellow, large and flat-topped. These appear in the middle of summer.
Other varieties of lovage
- Scots lovage (Levisticum scoticum)
It is easy to grow lovage from seed or from root pieces. Plant in the spring or autumn. Established plants can be lifted and divided in the spring; replant the side shoots. If transplanting lovage, this must be done very early in its growth as it develops a very long tap root.
Select an area with rich and moist soil, deeply dug, in a sunny and open position. Light shade will improve its flavour.
If sowing seeds, use ones that have freshly ripened and plant in midsummer. To sow the seeds, sow 12mm/ 1/2 inch deep in drills.
Caring for lovage
Expect lovage to die back completely during the winter. Mark the area to avoid planting something else there. Take the leaves and dry them for winter use, before it dies back.
To capture seeds, remove the seed heads when turning brown. Place upside down in a paper bag to catch the seeds as they drop, or roll the seed heads and help the seeds to fall into the bag. Store in resealable bags or sealed containers.
Uses for lovage
The hollow stems of lovage can be used in the same way as celery. They have a spicy and peppery flavour, useful for stews, soups, salads and casseroles.
Lovage seeds can be added to cakes, biscuits (cookies) and bread to add some piquancy.
The leaves can be used in tea.
During the winter months, the root can be used, as well as dried leaves. To use the roots, lift when the plant is two to three years old, wash and dry. Store them in a cool place until needed.