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LOVAGE: DESCRIPTION

by admin - April 2nd, 2009.
Filed under: Herbal. Tagged as: .

Levisticum officinale UMBELLIFERAE

Lovage is a very difficult herb to grow in its germination and seedling stage, and also a very slow starter, and this seems to have discouraged many herb fanciers from cultivating it in their gardens.

The seeds take weeks and sometimes months to germinate and, unlike other herbs, need cool conditions for the best results. My first sowing of lovage taught me a lesson in patience. After some three or four weeks of warm weather, no sign of life could be seen in the seed box, and I put it aside in the potting room, meaning to remove the soil and try again with fresher seed. This was at the busiest seed-sowing time of year, in early spring, and another seed box got put on top of the lovage, and was watered and tended to provide me with new plants of sage. Cooler weather returned, and when I removed the sage box to pot out the seedlings some 8 weeks later I found about 25 little lovage plants in the box below, with their dicotyledon twin seed stems growing sturdily in the cool darkness.

Lovage seeds can be soaked in cool water for 24 hours before sowing, although I have not found this to speed up their germination by a very appreciable amount. I now sow lovage in the autumn, when cool nights help it along, and for old time’s sake I put another seed box on top.

The plant is a tall, slow-growing perennial, taking four or more years to attain its full height. One plant of lovage in the garden is sufficient for a good-sized family, for it is a rampant grower when mature, with plenty of its shiny brilliant-green leaves available when needed. This is not a herb for those who like quick returns; but it is a stately, showy plant, well worth the patience and time needed to bring it to maturity. It can be cut back hard from time to time to keep it shapely.

The leaves have a celery flavour, with a yeasty taste when added to soups and stews, and it is sometimes cooked in vegetarian dishes to give a “meaty” flavour for those who miss this in their diet. The Maggi brand seasonings have lovage as their chief ingredient.

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