Lovage (Levisticum officinale; Umbelliferae)


A perennial with stout, hollow stems to 6 ft (2 metres) tall; it has fleshy roots and toothed leaves divided into leaflets like celeriac. Tiny, greenish yellow flowers appear in clusters in July. Origin, the Mediterranean area; it may have been introduced by the Romans.


Strong celery aroma and flavour from entire plant the whole of which (except the roots) is used in cooking, especially for soups and casseroles, giving a yeast like flavour. Medicinal uses included relief of eye troubles, as a gargle and mouthwash, and as a deodorant, using the leaves in bath water.


The common name is a corruption from levisticum by way of love-ache, its only name some centuries ago. The generic name itself is a corruption of Ligisticum, from Liguria, in Italy. It is reputed to have been of help in romantic troubles, and was grown regularly in herb gardens until the last century.


Sow the seeds when ripe in late August-September as the period of viability is short, and transplant the following spring to 3 ft (1 metre) apart, in moist well drained soil. Mulch every year. Also increase from root cuttings, each with an eye, in spring, put 2 in. (5 cm) below soil level.

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