Background and Uses
Lovage is a tall herbaceous perennial. The Romans and Greeks valued it as a digestive aid and it was the Romans who brought the herb to England. It was valued in traditional European folk medicine and is still eaten as a vegetable in its native southern Europe.
Nearly every part of this plant has found some culinary application over the centuries. The leafstalks are most commonly is the stalk which is often used interchangeably for celery. Additionally, the leaves can be added to soups, stews and other vegetable dishes while the root is sometimes grated and added to salads, icings, syrups and other concoctions. Lovage is also noted for its high content of quercetin, a plant flavanoid believed to have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Lovage can be direct sown in late fall in zones with a long growing season, or started indoors or in a greenhouse approximately 6 weeks prior to the final frost of the spring. Sow approximately 1/2″ beneath the surface of the soil. Keep well moistened, and moderate water slightly once starts begin to break through surface of soil. Lovage prefers partial or filtered shade, and fertile, well-drained soil that is rich in compost and nutrients. Keep soil moist.
Harvesting and Processing Lovage
Both leaves and stems may be dried for winter use. To prepare the foliage for drying, wash the stems, then clip off the leaflets and spread them out on a tray or newspaper until they are ready to be stored in airtight containers. The seed heads (which mature in August) should be laid out flat to dry, then put in a large bag and shaken to remove the “nutlets.”