Levisticum officinale. Perennial in zones 3-9.
With an appearance similar to its celery relative, lovage has a lovely fragrance and a sweet herbal flavor to match. Almost fennel-like undertones that is also reminiscent of celery and parsley, but lovage really has a flavor all its own. All parts of this plant are edible – leaves can be used in salads, leaves and stems add flavor to soups and stews, roots provide a hearty vegetable, and the flowers and seeds are used as an herb. Hollow stalks make an excellent drinking straw, perfect for Bloody Marys. Also used medicinally, as it is very aromatic – a tea of the leaves is said to aid in digestion. Lovage has been cultivated so widely for such a long time that its native range is not known – there are naturalized populations from Western Europe through Southwestern Asia. Beneficial insects love the large umbelliferous flowers. Plants can reach 5′ tall while in flower. Germination can be slow and erratic, but once established they are quite hardy.
Best when direct sown in early spring or late summer/early fall. May also be sown indoors in pots for transplant 3-4 weeks after sprouting to 12” centers. Germination may be slow and erratic. Grows well in full sun to part shade. This long-lived perennial is a great choice for winter gardens in our area. Keep well fertilized, watered, and cultivated. May self-sow if allowed to set seed.
Cut seed heads before every seed has shattered. Allow to after-ripen for a few days, then thresh by hand or by dancing. Screen and winnow to clean. Dry thoroughly before storing.