Lovage, Official (Levisticum officinale)
Lovage, Official (Levisticum officinale)

Lovage, Official (Levisticum officinale)

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Once present in kitchen gardens throughout Europe and the US, Lovage has now become lesser known in contemporary times, yet no less delectable as a vegetable crop in your garden. Glossy leaves of Levisticum officinale emerge in early spring, their rich green stalks towering up to six feet tall in the course of a growing season. With a flavor profile comparable to parsley or celery, Lovage tends to be reminiscent of anise and citrus too. Its palate is much more potent than its carrot family relatives.
This plant’s name is an adapted version of the Middle English title ‘Lovache,’ with this word and the genus ‘Levisticum’ drawn from the Latin ‘Ligusticum.’ This points to its long-reaching prominence in Liguria, Italy (though the plant is native not only to the Mediterranean but to Western Asia and parts of the Middle East). Ancient Romans, so fond of Lovage, brought the crop to England when they invaded it, and English colonists then brought it along to North America with them. It is said that the ancient Greeks chewed their leaves to relieve indigestion and gas, and placed this greenery in their shoes to tonic weary feet. Lovage is believed by many to be a diuretic and an aid in alleviating digestive issues and jaundice. In the Middle Ages, Lovage was said to contain magical properties, from protecting cattle from witches to scenting the baths of young ladies as a means of imbuing them with charm.

Expect this plant to be low-fuss, yet in need of a good amount of space to grow into. Leisticum officinale is perennial, though if its many years were to somehow be truncated, the abundance of seeds this plant produces will allow it to sprout anew. And, the seeds are delicious as a seasoning; they once were as costly as black pepper for use sprinkling onto meals, and sometimes are made into cordials or sweets.