Sunday, April 13, 2008

Really love that Lovage

Gnome asked for a feature on Lovage, after my comment about it waking up from the winter and heading for a Lovage hedge this year.
Herewith, from a combination of Wikipedia & my experience of it. Lovage (Levisticum officinale) - well, you didn't expect a former botanist not to give you the full name did you? - is dead easy to grow and once you've got it it'll take a JCB to get rid of it. But why would you want to get rid of it? It has a lovely flavour, akin to celery which it vaguely resembles, and the leaves and seeds are used to flavor food, especially in South European cuisine. It is a tall (3 to 9 ft) perennial , hence the reference to a Lovage hedge. It looks pretty impenetrable when in full flow but is quite soft really and dies back completely in the autumn so is no use at all as a 'real' hedge. Lovage also sometimes gets referred to as smallage, but anything less appropriate is hard to imagine. Mine was grown from seed last year and I confidently expect it to get to at least four feet this year. Here it is now:

Lovage is considered to be a "magic bullet" companion plant; much as borage helps protect almost all plants from pests, so lovage is thought to improve the health of almost all plants. In Germany and Holland, one of the common names of Lovage is Maggikraut (German) or Maggiplant (Dutch) because the plant's taste is reminiscent of Maggi soup seasoning. Or could this perhaps be a vice versa?? We use it a lot in Wilma Wilbury's damn fine fish stew.

Finally, Lovage tea can be applied to wounds as an antiseptic, or drunk to stimulate digestion.

There you are then; all the news that's fit to print about Lovage. I particularly liked Maggikraut; I think I met her once.


The Gnome said...

Really helpful posting Woody. You have sold it to me. I shall grow a couple of plants and see how I get on with it. What I have discovered with home grown herbs is that they have a scent and flavour that cannot be matched by shop sold stuff. I like the magic plant idea...........I wonder if it will ward off the dreaded ground elder that I am still clearing ?

Slow Travellers said...

Hi Woody, How many Lovage plants do you have? Just wondering how many I might need myself. And how far apart do you plant them? Cheers for the advice

Woody Wilbury said...

Hi Slow. Only three. That will give you as much lovage as you could possibly need unless you wanted to overdose on it! How far apart? About 18" or so. They grow pretty big.

Woody Wilbury said...

And I've just spotted your cycling blog from near Mugla last year. Did you get to Akyaka (near Mugla) at the the head of the Gulf of Gokova? Strongly recommend it; we've been back twice.

Slow Travellers said...

Hi Woody, we didn't get to Akyaka, but we loved Turkey and are keen to go back soon. Thanks for the advice about Lovage. I reckon it'll be useful for making lettuice soup with our excess lettuice.