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Here’s how to grow Lovage, a delicious perennial herb that adds a celery flavor to your meals.
What is Lovage?
Have you ever heard of Lovage? What IS it? This hardy perennial is not a common plant and many people have never heard of it.
Lovage is a wonderful plant that gets quite large and is suitable to be planted in hardiness zones 3-9. Generally, it prefers any zone with a cool climate. It’s a herb and you can pick the leaves to add to your dinners fresh. It’s related to Parsley although it grows a lot larger!
Lovage levisticum officinale is the proper name. Native to southern Europe, its earliest history comes from Greece and it’s moved throughout Europe and is now here in North America. Many European cultures use lovage as a natural stimulant for digestion, as well as water retention and a variety of skin problems.
Where does Lovage Grow?
True lovage will be found in the wild in Europe, Western Asia, and the United States among other places, but other varieties like sea lovage (or Scottish lovage) is found more specifically in Northern Britain and along the Atlantic coast of the United States. There’s also a type of lovage called black lovage that grows in Britain and around the Mediterranean.
It has a celery-like flavor, but stronger than that. This culinary herb tastes great in salads with other greens; it really adds a zing. You can use it in soups and stews as well. This makes it great to include in your vegetable garden! Planted near plants like potatoes, lovage can helps battle insects and caterpillars that may damage other crops.
Lovage also grows beautiful yellow or greenish-yellow flowers, which don’t have much purpose besides looking pretty! They’ll start to bloom in the spring and early summer.
How to Grow Lovage
You can order seed, and start seedlings indoors in pots or you can buy one perennial plant. They are not stocked at many garden centers, though, so grab one if you find it! You may also know someone who already has a plant that is willing to share with you.
Lovage is easy to divide; just dig it up and split it in half with a shovel. Replant to make more plants or give one away to a gardening friend.
And it’s easy to grow. Plant lovage somewhere where it will get full sun, which it loves. If you have to sow seeds in areas with small bouts of partial shade, it should be fine.
Then just add some well aged compost, organic fertilizer, or manure to the planting hole before you sow lovage seeds.
For transplants for indoor seedlings, be sure to plant approximately 8 inches apart in rows 18 inches from each other.
That’s about it – just water it as needed. Lovage planting is a pretty simple process! It does like regular watering, so don’t let it get too dried out.
Lovage Growing Season
Lovage growing season starts in the early spring, once soil temperatures are about 60 degrees F or so. By April and mid-May, you should easily be able to snip a few leaves to add to dinners or salads, or dry them and preserve them for use through the colder months.
Here’s the same plant later in the season. It’s grown a bit, hasn’t it? We have it growing alongside our Rhubarb plants as a companion plant and love the way the two look together.
We also have a lot of blooming Chive herbs along the front of the bed.
Lovage will grow about six feet tall – that’s a LOT of leaves you can harvest and dehydrate. And, it’s a pretty looking herb that grows to the size of a shrub each year. Since the plant grows so large, you can get a great harvest!
And a bonus is that this herb is a perennial! So plant it once, and every year it will come back and grow large again.
How to Manage Pests
Luckily, lovage is a strong and hardy plant that typically fares well in the face of bugs and disease. Aphids are the major threat to lovage, and parsley worms and leaf miners can also cause problems.
For the most part, these pests won’t do serious damage, but you still may want to handle them if the lovage seems like it’s on the brink of infestation.
How to Harvest Lovage
Lovage is typically best harvested in the morning after the dew has evaporated. In most cases, new growth will sprout from any locations where you harvest.
You will find it easiest to cut the stalks with a good sharp pair of hand pruning shears. The stems are hollow but large.
And it’s best to cut the stalks, instead of just bending them over. This tends to rip the stalk.
Cut the individual stalks down close to the base of the plant. Regular trimming will really help as the plant grows so fast, it can get out of hand quite easily.
Here’s a full basket of freshly cut stalks. I’ll bring it up to the house and start snipping leaves stems (the smaller ones). I use a good pair of kitchen scissors for this, but you can use the specialized herb scissors, whichever you like. We will use some leaves fresh and some to preserve for later.
For the seeds, you’ll want to harvest them when the seed heads turn brown. Then transfer to a brown paper bag to dry. Once dry, roll them in your hands to remove brown casings.
Saved lovage seeds can suffer from low germination rates in some cases and can also take 20 or so days to emerge. Any fresh seeds that are over a year old will likely not yield good results.
How to Store Lovage
To preserve this or any herb, you can easily dry it. Here’s an article I wrote on How to Dry Herbs.
Herbs are always better when they are used right away, but that’s not always possible, depending on the season.
It’s so easy to store a jar or two for using all season! Whenever a dish you’re cooking could use a celery flavor, add a pinch or three of dried lovage to whatever is cooking on the stove.
You can also dry the leaves whole and upside down, then follow the same instructions for storage. Be sure the leaves are fully dry before storing. Then use them whenever you like.
Now you know how to grow Lovage, so plant some Lovage in your herb garden!
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originally published 2019; latest update Sept 2022