Lovage, (Levisticum officinale)
Though not highly sought out amongst the majority of American cooks, Lovage is a staple in some European countries. This hardy perennial is easy to grow; withstanding severe winter conditions and offers a strong sweet celery aroma and flavor. Lovage is commonly used to flavor stews, soup, poultry and vegetable dishes.
Lovage is very easy to grow and can be propagated by either root division or by seed. Be sure to use fresh seed. Lovage seed does not store well, the older the seed the lesser the germination rate. Lovage will take about 8 to 9 weeks before it should be transplanted to outdoor beds. Once the plant has reached a couple of inches it is recommend to transplant them in to larger containers, preferably no less than 4 inch container. When your Lovage plant reaches about 4 inches or so it is time to transplant them to beds.
Lovage is a heavy feeder, so be sure to prep your beds with composted manure and choose a location that receives plenty of sun or partial shade. Lovage grows to be very tall, so it would be wise to plant it on the north side of the garden so that it does not shade out other plants, and spacing between plants should be about 36 inches apart. During the first year Lovage will only grow to be about 1 foot, but by the second year it will reach nearly 6 feet tall.
Lovage should always be used fresh. It seems to lose its flavor when dried. During midsummer the plant will produce long flowering stalks. These stalks should be cut back to produce more leaves. By the third year it is recommend dividing roots allowing the plant to grow more vigorous. To harvest Lovage you need to cut the side branches off the main stem or from the crown. If the stems are long bunching is easier. A bunch size is typically 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter at the rubber band.
If you enjoy growing and cooking with herbs and have not experimenting with Lovage yet- give it a grow! This is a very easy herb to grow and harvest, and brings that extra flavor to the table.
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