It’s finally February – when gardening hearts are struck by Cupid’s trowel. Once Cupid smiles upon you, it’s time for a new romance – falling in and for lovage.
You’re likely to love lovage for its aromatic celery flavor that’s more intense and sweeter – with a hint of anise – when used instead of celery in salad, soup and stew recipes. Seeds flavor pickles and vinegars and can be crushed to sprinkle atop breads. It also goes well with seafood and tomato-based sauces.
Its name, lovage, resulted in its reputation as a love potion. Who knows? This may challenge Cupid’s customary arrow.
Whatever your desire, Levisticum officinale is sure to attract you, as well your avian visitors, with its perennial flowering. As a member of the Apiaceae family along with carrots, dill, and parsley, it has a
multitude of culinary herbal attractions given that its leaves, seeds, and roots are all edible.
Just as with true love, lovage has captured the hearts of many for millennia. The Romans used it as a spice and it’s mentioned in the Apicius collection of their recipes. The ancient Greeks chewed its leaves to improve digestion.
Native to western Asia, parts of the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, it was cultivated around the globe and brought to the US by British settlers as both food and medicine. Although you can domestically cultivate this lovely plant, it’s naturalized itself in New England, the Great Lakes states, Colorado, New Mexico, and most of Europe.
You will also love that a 100g serving of lovage contains 84% of your daily requirement of vitamin A, half your needed vitamin C intake, and has significant amounts of calcium, iron and potassium. What a lovage way to get your daily vitamins and a significant source of antioxidants!
Fuss free, lovage’s frilly leaves make a lovely showing with the mature stalks sometimes standing six feet tall. In early summer, brilliant canary-yellow flowers will splash across the garden, perfuming the air with their splendid fragrance.
Lovage may be propagated by either seed (start 5-6 weeks prior to last frost) or root division. Once seedlings have 2 sets of true leaves, and the last frost has passed, you can transplant them in an area with partial shade. Use generously-composted and well-drained soil. Maintaining even moisture will encourage vigorous growth and more lovage for you to love.
Although lovage dies back to the ground and goes dormant in the winter, don’t fret, as it will reemerge in spring. So, don’t fall out of flavor settling for celery when you can cultivate the delightful, delicious and everlasting lovage instead!
Seed and plant sources
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Seed Savers Exchange
West Coast Seeds
The Growers Exchange
Recipe: Lovage potato soup
1 yellow organic onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil (not extra virgin)
3 medium organic Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut in cubes
2 cups no salt organic chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups milk (or alternative soy, nut, coconut or oat milk)
½ cup chopped lovage leaves
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated from a wedge
Lovage leaves for garnish
In large heavy pot, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until limp and translucent. Add potatoes, stock, cumin and milk to pot. Heat on medium to a simmer (do not allow to boil). Cook until potatoes are tender.
Remove from heat. Ladle about half the soup in a deep bowl. Add chopped lovage and purée with hand blender or in food processor. Return to pot and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir on low to reheat for a few minutes.
Ladle soup into serving bowls, sprinkling grated parmesan cheese and some lovage leaves over each.
Serves about 4-6.