Lovage is an edible herb and hardy perennial, which can reach up to 2m in height. The foliage is bright green and attractively divided, rather like flat-leaved parsley, and its tall stems are topped with tiny greenish-yellow flowers in summer. Lovage has a celery-like flavour and adds a meaty element to dishes. The leaves can be cooked as a green vegetable in soups and stews, and the tender young leaves added to salads. The seeds are edible too and have a wide range of uses, including in bread and savoury pastries, on salads and potatoes. All parts of the lovage plant are edible, including the roots, which can be harvested in winter when the plant is dormant.
How to grow lovage
Buy ready grown lovage plants or raise from seed. Plant them where there’s plenty of room for them to grow, in fertile soil or in a large pot, and water well during dry spells. Clip established plants regularly to encourage fresh new growth, and harvest as required. Cut dead growth to the ground in autumn or winter.
Where to grow lovage
With an attractive appearance, lovage can be grown alongside ornamental plants in a border as well as in an herb or vegetable garden. It can also be grown in a large pot. Site in full sun or partial shade and plant in good, fertile soil that’s moisture-retentive yet free-draining. Lovage can grow up to 2m high and 1m across, so bear this in mind when planning where to grow it.
How to plant lovage
Lovage is a hardy perennial and can be planted at any time of year, with autumn or spring being the best times. Water well until established. To grow in pots, plant one lovage in a good-sized pot that has a minimum height and width of 30cm. Lovage can take several years to reach its full size.
Caring for lovage
Once established, lovage needs little care. Trim occasionally to encourage a regular supply of new growth for harvesting. After flowering, allow the seed heads to mature and ripen if the seeds are required for harvest, but if not, cut off the faded flower heads as lovage can self-seed prolifically. Once growth has died back in autumn, cut back to ground level any time before spring.
How to propagate lovage
Lovage can be grown from seed, but as one plant is enough to provide a plentiful harvest, buying a ready-grown plant can be the easiest approach. To grow from seed, sow in the ground in autumn, directly where the plant is to grow.
You can propagate new plants from your lovage by saving seed to sow in spring (best done after a period of stratification, so pop the seeds in the freezer for a couple of weeks before sowing), or dividing the rootball in autumn or early spring.
Harvesting, using and storing lovage
Pick the leaves as required, at the state of maturity to suit their use. Strip large leaves from the stalks before cooking: the stalks can be chopped and cooked separately. Young leaves and stalks can be kept entire. To harvest seeds, pick the seed heads as they start to turn brown, place in a paper bag and hang upside down in a dry airy place. Shake the bag so the seeds fall from the heads, and store in jars for use over winter. Lovage leaves are best stored by freezing: fill ice cube trays with the chopped leaves, cover with a little water, and freeze.
Growing lovage: problem solving
Lovage is mainly trouble-free, as long as it’s planted in rich, deeply cultivated soil. Plants growing in poorer soils may need frequent watering. Lovage growing in pots will need regular watering to ensure the compost doesn’t dry out.
Leaf miner is a pest that may attack lovage. Inspect plants regularly for signs of the ‘tunnels’ in the leaves: pick off and bin any infected ones as the infestation can become widespread.