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Lovage is an herb that’s often overlooked, but it’s a versatile and flavorful addition to any garden. Not only is Lovage a great herb to use in cooking, but it also has medicinal properties that make it a valuable addition to any herb garden.
In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of growing lovage, tips for cultivating it, and ways to use it in cooking and natural remedies. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, lovage is a herb that is well worth considering.
What is Lovage?
Lovage is a perennial herb native to the Mediterranean region and Central Asia. It’s a member of the Apiaceae family, which also includes carrots, celery, and parsley. It has tall, celery-like stalks that can reach up to 6 feet in height, and large, fragrant leaves that are green on top and yellow-green on the bottom.
The leaves, stem, and seeds of lovage are edible and have a strong celery-like flavor. The plant flowers in summer with yellow-green umbel-like flowers attract beneficial insects like bees and butterflies to your garden. It’s commonly used in culinary and medicinal purposes.
Varieties of Lovage
Here are some of the main varieties of lovage:
- Levisticum officinale (common lovage or garden lovage): This is the most commonly cultivated variety of lovage, it has tall, celery-like stalks and large, fragrant leaves.
- Levisticum officinale var. angustifolium (narrow-leaved lovage): This variety has a more compact habit and narrower leaves than the common lovage.
- Levisticum officinale var. ‘Magdeburgense’: This variety has been selected for its shorter habit and smaller leaves than the common lovage.
- Levisticum officinale var. ‘Herrenhausen’: This variety is known for its shorter habit and smaller leaves, it is a bit more compact than the other varieties.
- Levisticum officinale var. ‘Lofos’: This is a dwarf variety of lovage, it grows shorter and more compact than other varieties.
- Levisticum officinale var. ‘Aureum’: This is a yellow-leaved variety of lovage, it has a unique yellow color on its leaves which make it an ornamental herb.
Please note that the exact characteristics of each variety may vary depending on the growing conditions, some varieties may be exclusive to certain regions, and not all of them may be readily available for purchase, also it’s possible that there may be other varieties of lovage that exist or are being developed.
Uses of Lovage
Lovage is a versatile herb that has a variety of uses, both culinary and medicinal.
· Culinary Uses
The leaves, stem and seeds of lovage have a strong celery-like flavor and can be used in a variety of dishes. The leaves can be used in salads, soups, stews, and meat dishes. The seeds can be used as a seasoning for soups, stews, and meats. The stalks can be used as a substitute for celery in soups, stews, and stuffings.
· Medicinal Uses
Lovage has been traditionally used for a variety of medicinal purposes. The leaves and roots have diuretic and laxative properties. The seeds have been used to relieve gas and bloating. The plant has also been used as a tonic for the digestive system.
· Ornamental Uses
Lovage is also an attractive herb, its tall, celery-like stalks and large, fragrant leaves make it a striking addition to any herb garden. The yellow-green umbel-like flowers are also a great way to attract beneficial insects like bees and butterflies to your garden.
The leaves and seeds of lovage have a strong and pleasant aroma, it can be used to make essential oils that can be used in aromatherapy and perfumes.
How to Grow Lovage
Growing lovage is relatively easy and it’s a hardy herb that can grow in a variety of conditions. Here are some tips on how to grow lovage:
Lovage can be planted in the spring or fall. The best time to plant it will depend on your climate and the specific conditions in your garden. In general, it’s best to plant lovage when the soil has warmed up in the spring, or in the fall before the first frost.
Lovage prefers well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. It will grow in a variety of soil types, but it performs best in fertile, loamy soil that is slightly alkaline. If your soil is heavy clay or sandy, it’s a good idea to amend it with organic matter to improve drainage and fertility.
Lovage prefers a soil pH between 6 and 7.5, it can adapt to a wide range of soils, but it thrives in moist and well-drained soil. Good drainage is important because lovage does not tolerate standing water.
It’s a good idea to test your soil’s pH and fertility before planting and amend it accordingly. You can also add a slow-release fertilizer when planting to give the plant a boost and make sure it has the necessary nutrients to establish itself.
Lovage prefers full sun to partial shade. It will tolerate full shade, but it won’t grow as vigorously and may become spindly. In full sun, the plant will be taller and produce more leaves, ideal for culinary uses. In partial shade, the plant will be shorter and produce fewer leaves, ideal for ornamental uses.
The ideal location for lovage is in an area that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. It will tolerate some morning or evening shade, but it should be protected from the hot afternoon sun in the hottest months of the year.
It’s also important to note that lovage is a hardy herb and can adapt to a wide range of light conditions. However, if you live in a hot and dry area, it’s best to provide some shade during the hottest part of the day to prevent the leaves from wilting.
Lovage prefers consistent moisture, but it should not be allowed to sit in standing water. It’s important to keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. The ideal method of watering is to water deeply and infrequently, rather than more frequently but shallowly.
During the growing season, it’s important to keep the soil consistently moist and water the plant deeply once a week. In hot and dry weather, you may need to water more frequently to keep the soil from drying out. It’s also important to note that lovage has deep roots, so it can tolerate dry spells to some degree, but it’s best to keep the soil consistently moist for the best growth and health.
In terms of irrigation, it’s best to use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to avoid getting water on the leaves of the plant, as it can cause fungal diseases.
Lovage is a heavy feeder, so it’s a good idea to fertilize it regularly during the growing season. A balanced, all-purpose fertilizer will work well. You can use a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer, or a fertilizer specifically formulated for herbs, and apply it according to the package instructions. It’s best to fertilize lovage every 4-6 weeks during the growing season, starting when the plants are about 6 inches tall and continuing until they start to flower.
Alternatively, you can also use organic fertilizers like well-rotted manure, fish emulsion, or blood meal. These organic fertilizers will release nutrients slowly and will not burn the roots of the plant, in addition, they will also improve soil structure and fertility.
It’s also important to note that before planting lovage, it’s best to add a slow-release fertilizer or well-rotted manure to the soil to give the plant a boost and make sure it has the necessary nutrients to establish itself.
Pruning lovage is important for keeping it in check and promoting bushier growth. Here are some tips on how to prune lovage:
- Cut back the stalks after flowering: After the plant has flowered, cut the stalks back to the ground. This will encourage bushier growth and prevent the plant from becoming too tall and spindly.
- Cut back the leaves as needed: During the growing season, you can cut back the leaves as needed to control the size of the plant and promote bushier growth.
- Remove any damaged or diseased leaves: Regularly check the plant for any damaged or diseased leaves and remove them to prevent the spread of disease.
- Cut back the plant in the fall: In the fall, cut back the plant to about 6 inches above the ground to prepare it for winter.
- Thin out crowded clumps: If your lovage plants become overcrowded, thin out the clumps to promote better air circulation and prevent disease.
By following these pruning tips, you can keep your lovage in good condition and ensure that it continues to produce fresh leaves and flavorful stalks for cooking. It’s also important to note that when pruning, it is best to use sharp, clean pruning shears or a sharp knife to prevent damage to the plant and the spread of disease.
· Companion Planting
Companion planting is the practice of planting two or more different plants in close proximity to each other to promote the growth and health of both plants. Lovage can be planted near other herbs, vegetables, or flowers as it’s said to repel certain pests and attract beneficial insects like bees and butterflies.
Here are some examples of companion plants for lovage:
- Vegetables: Lovage is said to repel aphids, so it can be planted near susceptible plants like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
- Herbs: Lovage can be planted near other herbs like parsley, chives, and dill.
- Flowers: Lovage can be planted near flowers that attract beneficial insects like borage, calendula, and yarrow.
- Fruit: Lovage can be planted near fruit trees like apple, apricot, and cherry.
Harvesting lovage is relatively easy and it’s a versatile herb that can be used fresh or dried. Here are some tips on how to harvest lovage:
- Leaves: You can begin harvesting the leaves of lovage when the plants are about a foot tall. The leaves have the strongest flavor when they are young and tender. You can use them fresh or dry them for later use.
- Stalks: The stalks can be harvested in the fall, after the plant has flowered. Cut the stalks at the base of the plant and use them fresh or dry them for later use.
- Seeds: The seeds of lovage can be harvested in the fall, after the plant has flowered. The seeds will be ripe when they turn brown and can be collected and used for cooking or planting.
- Timing: It’s best to harvest lovage in the morning, when the essential oils are at their peak. Avoid harvesting when the plant is wet to prevent the spread of disease.
- Preservation: Leaves and stalks can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a year. The seeds can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to two years.
Lovage is hardy to zone 4, meaning it can overwinter in colder climates. However, it’s best to protect the plant from freezing temperatures to ensure its survival through the winter. Here are some tips for overwintering lovage:
- Mulching: Mulch around the base of the plant to protect it from freezing temperatures. Use a thick layer of straw, leaves, or evergreen boughs to insulate the roots.
- Watering: Water the plant deeply before the ground freezes to ensure that the soil is moist and the roots have enough water to survive the winter.
- Pruning: Cut back the plant in the fall to about 6 inches above the ground to prepare it for winter. This will help to protect the plant from snow and ice damage.
- Protection: In extremely cold climates, you can cover the plant with burlap or frost cloth to provide extra protection.
- Spring care: In the spring, remove the mulch and prune away any damaged or dead growth before the new growth appears.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your lovage survives the winter and comes back strong in the spring. It’s also important to note that the hardiness of lovage can vary depending on the specific conditions of your garden and the severity of the winter, so keep an eye on the plant and take extra measures if needed.
Frequently Asked Questions about Lovage
Lovage has a strong, celery-like flavor with hints of parsley and anise.
Yes, lovage can be eaten raw and is often used as a garnish or in salads for added flavor.
Lovage is a hardy perennial herb, which grows well in full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. It’s native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia.
Yes, you can freeze lovage leaves. It’s best to blanch them first, then dry and store them in airtight containers or freezer bags.
Yes, lovage is a perennial herb, it comes back every year and can grow up to 6 feet tall in ideal conditions.
As you can see, lovage is a versatile and hardy herb that’s easy to grow and has many uses. Whether you’re growing it for its flavorful leaves, stalks, and seeds, or for its ornamental value, lovage is a great addition to any herb garden. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, lovage is a great herb to add to your collection.