We want to move towards self-sufficiency and are looking for herbs that can be added to supplement our diet with high nutritional content, so lovage seems the perfect herb!
If you want to have a garden that takes little maintenance then Lovage – Levisticum officinalis is the ultimate solution. It tastes like celery and the leaves can be taken directly from the living plant. It is a perennial and will be there whilst other tender leafed herbs have shuddered away in the winter. Lovage can easily be grown from seed, indoors then transferred outside when the frosts have left.
Sowing Lovage seeds under glass
So we started ours off in biodegradable plant pots. That way we can transfer them outside when they are ready to be put directly into the ground. It will mean no disruption to their roots.
With a packet of seeds containing several hundred seeds you do not need to plant them all, ever! Lovage will self seed each year, as soon as you realise this you understand the planting process.
Almost fill the seed planter. Lay an individual seed on the top. Dust with soil. We mean dust as well. It is tempting to try and think in terms of depth, but as we have seen the seeds will happily leave the flowers in Autumn and land on ground. Then take root. So no need to give them any special treatment.
No worries about seed starting compost either. Just a nice every day compost. Keep it moist and under cover. We have this in our heated propagator.
Partly due to the extra heat we have seen them sprout within 7-10 days. This means that the first leaves come up then. We move to a sunny spot until the true leaves arrive. Then around 5-6 weeks later we are thinking about acclimatizing them.
When to transfer seeds to the ground
Prior to putting them into the ground, check a few things!
No more chances of frost, you know your region better than I do but the British weather is notoriously unpredictable.
You must also be sure of the location you are thinking of putting them. Lovage grows to around 6 foot high and will spread to nearly 40 inches in full Summer. So have you got somewhere with good drainage and a lot of sunshine that meets this? Making sure that you can then further control it when it starts to self seed as well!
Don’t get me wrong though – lovage looks the part! Very impressive not just because f its height but the leaves are those shredded shaggy type. Very pleasing in it’s own right!
This is when those biodegradable pots become so helpful. The root system will still be young and delicate. So without disturbing the roots, make the hole and pop the pot in. Water them in well and leave.
Like seriously there is very little that your lovage plant will need from you now.
How to harvest Lovage
- Leaves can be harvested as and when you want to eat them, this is what makes lovage so perfect. Fresh leaves for any salads, soups, garnish or inside sandwiches.
- Stems can be cut back at the end of the main growing season
- Seeds can be taken once the flowers have gone over but be wary as they are self seeders so you may loose them all to a strong breeze.
- Roots can be harvested when you are ready to dig up the plant. It is a perennial so you may want to reconsider.
What can you use Lovage for?
We are seriously looking at becoming more self sufficient. Lovage is the perfect alternative to celery as it is far easier to grow and much more prolific. Not to mention you can eat it all. Plus it is a cut and come again type of plant, meaning I can eat the leaves straight from the plant.
We add the leaves to salads and have a great Sorrel and herb salad mix thing for BBQ’s. The salty celery taste is good with more of your ‘heavy’ dishes. Even with hot buttered new potatoes with parsley and Lovage it really lifts the side dish!
You can use the leaves to garnish pasta dishes. To add an extra element to ham and tomato sandwiches in your packed lunch. Or even as an ingredient in a winter stew.
We love to cook with eggs as we have a small flock of free range hens, so any dish that you may have added spinach, then lovage, mixed with a few other herbs will become a tasty uplift.
The stem can be candied like angelica, we have never done this though! But good in sweets.
The roots are perfect as an actual root vegetable. So think like a more chunky celery, but with similar uses. Lightly roasted with other root vegetables, or in stews and casseroles.
Medicinal Properties of Lovage
Really you are adding a herb with high levels of vitamin C to your diet. Those benefits are not to be underestimated. Lovage will be more potent with the amount of sunshine it receives. So keep it well drained but in sunshine for as much of the day as possible.
Like all food the nutritional content will vary depending on how you cook it. As well as length of time from being picked to eating. So pick it and eat it in one go! Perfect for looking all eco-friendly and cool during family barbecues.
Keep it organic to make it easier to eat straight from the shrub!
There are other claims of the benefits of lovage for water retention, but they are still a new idea and would need more research to be fully confirmed.
Beware the Perennial qualities of this tasty ‘weed’
This fear of self seeding and your garden becoming a lovage paradise is real. To reduce that chance you can prick out the flowers, but then you have missed the delight of those small yellow petals. It would be a shame for local wildlife as well! So just keep an eye on the seeds during the dead flower season and make sure you weed around the area.
We are lucky that our chickens will eat any tender and tasty plants. So they do all the hard work for us and receive a good level of vitamin C in the process!
So please do let us all know how you get on with planting Lovage in your garden!