Lovage, also called mountain celery, is an aromatic herb with an intense aroma, reminiscent of celery and of which the foliage is collected above all.
It is a medicinal species belonging to the Umbelliferae or Apiaceae family, as well as dill and fennel, interesting because it can be easily grown both in the garden and in pots.
So let’s get to know this plant better and try to introduce it among our crops, grow it organically, and then experiment with it in the kitchen in various dishes.
Levisticum officinale: the plant
The lovage, Levisticum officinale, originates from Persia, or today’s Iran, from which it then spread throughout Europe, where it was regularly used by the ancient Romans as an official species.
This umbellifer is a perennial herbaceous species, rather vigorous, rustic, and adaptable. We can easily find it spontaneously, with stems that can reach up to 2 meters in height.
The flowers, gathered in umbrellas as is typical of the other species of the family (celery, carrot, fennel, chervil, …) appear in summer, are minute and yellow in color. If we let the flowers continue their course, we will witness the production of seeds, which we can collect once they are fully ripe for new sowing.
The rhizome, gray in color, is covered with large fibers which are the residue of the sheaths of the leaves and the root system is a taproot.
Suitable pedoclimatic conditions
Land for planting. The lovage is an adaptable species, it does not have very strict requirements, however, its ideal soil conditions are good looseness and softness, which guarantee sufficient drainage.
Optimal environmental conditions. Considering that lovage is also called “mountain celery” we can easily guess that it can grow even at a certain altitude. In fact, it can vegetate well both in the plains and in hilly or low mountain environments, with more rigid winter climatic conditions.
In choosing the position, we can dedicate the half shade to lovage as for the cousin ribbed celery.
The land that must accommodate the seeds or seedlings must be previously worked and amended with mature compost or manure. In the case of direct sowing, the breaking up of the clods must also be particularly accurate.
If you intend to grow it in pots, it is important to get a rather draining soil or if in doubt put a handful of expanded clay on the bottom.
Sow the officinal lovage
For the sowing of lovage we can proceed in two ways:
- With direct sowing in the open ground.
- Making a seedbed first and then transplanting the seedlings when they reach 10 cm in height.
If you choose the first route of direct sowing, we can proceed as soon as the environmental conditions allow, usually between the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
Once the seedlings are born, we will then have to thin out, leaving 30-50 cm between every single plant, given the growth potential of the species.
There is a third way to multiply lovage and that is the division of the tufts of an adult plant, but the method does not always guarantee satisfactory results.
Lovage cultivation technique
To cultivate the lovage you must, first of all, take into account that it is a perennial plant: it is a good idea to fertilize every year at the beginning of spring or in autumn with a little compost or manure and every now and then water with macerated fertilizers like that of nettle.
The lovage should receive regular irrigation, even if not excessive. As always, it is important to decide how much and how to irrigate based on the weather, temperatures, and observe the moisture status of the soil. But generally, at least in summer, we will have to intervene very often, otherwise, the leaves will tend to yellow.
Weeding and mulching
Another crop care to be administered often from spring onwards is the cleaning of spontaneous grass unless the entire space is mulched with straw, other material, or black sheets.
Diseases and parasites
There are no particular diseases or parasites affecting the lovage, but sometimes the young seedlings suffer the threat of snails and slugs and in this case, it is necessary to intervene with eco-compatible means, for example:
*Spreading of wood ash on the ground around.
*DIY beer traps.
*Broadcast an ecological parasite based on iron orthophosphate.
Intercosociations between perennial aromatics
Since it is a perennial plant, it is a good idea to dedicate a space to the lovage within a flower bed or a border entirely dedicated to all the aromatic species.
Collection and use of lovage
From the beginning of summer and until late autumn it is possible to cut lovage stems and leaves. The plant grows back, especially if it is kept irrigated regularly.
We can also use it to prepare decoctions and infusions, which were once appreciated for their healing properties: tonic, digestive, antirheumatic, diuretic, and others, which made it one of the plants used in phytotherapy.
In terms of properties, the officinal lovage consumed raw is particularly beneficial for its content in vitamin C.
Where to find lovage
Not always in garden centers, there are seeds or seedlings of this wild celery, because unfortunately there is a tendency to always offer the usual more classic crops. Anyone who does not find lovage seeds in stores can buy them online.
After the first purchase, it will be easy to get the seeds on your own starting from the flowering umbels.
You may be interested to read about the Echinacea blogpost/ Marigold cultivation blogpost/ Chervil and its cultivation blogpost/ Plant asparagus legs blogpost/ Borage cultivation blogpost/ Grow dill blogpost/ Hyssop medicinal plant blogpost/ Lemon: the plant and its cultivation blogpost/ Grow garden cress blogpost/ Growing turmeric blogpost/ Aloysia citrodora: cultivation/ Cornmeal cake recipe.