Root, seeds, leaves.
Lovage has several uses, including medicinal and culinary. Several researches have shown that lovage is an extremely beneficial herb for the digestive and respiratory systems. It has warming and stimulating therapeutic effects on both. In addition, lovage is effectual in healing ailments such as poor appetite, indigestion, bronchitis, gas and colic (pain in the abdomen). Lovage also possesses considerable diuretic and antimicrobial properties and hence it is normally administered for healing urinary tract problems. Apart from these features, lovage stimulates menstruation and alleviates menstrual pain. The warming quality of lovage helps in improving the poor blood circulation system.
Lovage is an excellent ingredient to add flavour or tang to your favourite soups, particularly those that contain potatoes, peas, beans and lentils. The herb and its derivative may also be used to spice up stews like chili, chicken pot pie, stir-fried vegetables and all favourite seafood cuisines. Addition of lovage to tasteless vegetables like summer squash adds flavour and savour to it. You may chafe a salad bowl with lovage to give the crisp salad the essence and tang of fresh celery. However, there are a few things that need to be borne in the mind while adding lovage to different cuisines. Since the lovage leaves tend to be a little coarse, you always need to chop them up delicately. Similarly, stems of the lovage herb are generally fibrous and hence when you use them for preparing any cuisine, remember to do away with the stems before serving the dish. If you desire to eat the lovage leaf stalks raw like celery, don't forget to blanch them before consumption. Besides eating blanched lovage leaf stalks raw, you may also cover them with candy and use these to adorn cakes and desserts. Even lovage seeds and roots are useful culinary items. Whole or grounded lovage seeds may be added to candy, meats, breads and aromatic crackers or biscuits. The lovage seeds are also useful for preparing pickles like capers. On the other hand, you may finely shred fresh lovage roots and add them in different salads or cook and serve them like any other tasty vegetable. However, remember to peel the outer skin of the roots before using them for they are pretty pungent to taste. Grated and dried lovage roots may also be consumed as an aromatic beverage. Steep 5 ml or one teaspoon finely shredded dry or fresh lovage roots in 250 ml or one cup of boiling water for a vigorous and stimulating tea.
Lovage is generally found in abundance in southern Europe as well as southwestern Asia. Although this aromatic herb can adjust and grow on most soils, barring heavy clay, it thrives best in well-drained cavernous, luxuriant soil that can preserve moisture. Lovage also prefers organic fertilizer and hence it is advisable to add completely decomposed manure at least once in a year. The plant's pH endurance range is between 5.0 and 7.6. Normally, lovage grows well in full sunlight, but can also adjust and thrive well in shade. However, the plant requires regular watering during the arid seasons. Lovage is propagated from seeds. The best time to sow lovage seeds is either in the latter part of summer or winter. Fresh lovage seeds germinate easily and better and hence, it must be borne in mind that the seeds should be planted as soon you obtain them. Take care to plant seeds at least 6 mm or 1/4 inches deep into the soil for better germination. Normally, the seeds give rise to shoots or saplings within 10 to 28 days of sowing. It takes a complete summer or nearly a year for the lovage seedling to develop into a plant of a good enough size. If lovage seeds are not readily available to you, look at the local nursery and get saplings from there. Plant these saplings before the last spring frost in your area. On the other hand, if you find that lovage plants are growing in your locality, you can take a part from the outer side of a mature plant and place in your garden. But remember that this part of the mature plant should include a root and also an eye or bud. While sowing, always keep a minimum distance of 60 cm or two feet between two lovage plants. This will provide the plants with adequate free space for growth. The lovage plant gets bigger in dimension with the passing of each year and since it is the largest among all kitchen herbs, it is advisable to grow the plant on the northern region of your garden. In this case, the lovage plant will not shadow other smaller plants in the garden. Significantly, the lovage herb also grows by itself through its ripened fruit seeds. Hence, if you wish to keep away from creating a jungle of lovage herbs in your garden, sever the fruit bearing branches before the seeds ripen and drop on the ground. If you fail to do this, by the next season, your garden will be full of dense growth of new saplings. Normally lovage plants have a comparatively long life and can survive for eight years. However, it would not be wise to grow any plant of the species in your garden for this long as they loose vigor with age. It is best if you split the plants and re-plant the plump roots along with the stems at intervals of three to four years. This helps the plants to remain strong and energetic. The best time of the year to undertake this work is either during the setting of spring or the latter part of fall. During both these periods the plant remains dormant and hence unlikely to cause any harm to the existing plants. Lovage plants are very sensitive to aphids (an insect that feeds on plants), chewing insects as well as diseases caused by fungi. At times, insects known as leaf miners attack the plant's leaves and create havoc. These insects leave behind white colored burrowing spots in some leaves. When this happens, just remove the injured leaves and destroy them. Significantly, lovage plants survive best under snow cover or mulch during the winters.
Chemical analysis of lovage has shown that this aromatic plant encloses a volatile oil, coumarins, plant acids, beta-sitosterol, gums and resins. About 70 per cent constituent of the volatile oil is phthalides, while coumarins include bergapten, psoralen and umbelliferone. It may be mentioned here that phthalides are sedatives (tranquilizers) and anti-convulsing that help in preventing or reducing seizures.
Although lovage is a beneficial herb in many ways, it has a few side-effects too. It is possible that consuming the herb or any of its derivatives, some people may suffer from photodermatitis - a skin allergy that occurs after ingesting the herb and then being out in the open in sunlight. On the other hand, since lovage is instrumental in increasing urine output, it is advisable that people suffering from kidney problems should avoid consuming the herb or its derivatives. Lovage may often prove to be detrimental for women. As the herb encourages menstruation, if consumed in excess, it may also lead to miscarriage among pregnant women. Significantly, many physicians often use lovage or its derivatives as a therapy to clear unwanted pregnancies. Thus, it is advisable that women suffering from menstrual disorders and also pregnant ladies should be careful in avoiding taking lovage in large amounts.
Although fresh lovage leaves may be picked anytime of the day, the best time of harvesting them is in the morning soon after the dew has disappeared. If you want to desiccate lovage, it is best to crop the herb's stems with leaves prior to the plant's flowering season. Next, dangle the herb's stems in a warm, dehydrated, well-ventilated and shaded place. When they are dried out, strip off the leaves and store them in airtight and sealed container. On the other hand, if you desire to freeze up lovage leaves, blanch and then freeze them in synthetic (plastic) freezer bags. If you want to harvest lovage seeds, you need to sever the fruit-bearing branches as soon as their color changes to brown during the latter part of summer. Next, place the seed heads in paper bags. Alternatively, you may also suspend the branched upturned branches over a cloth to collect the mature seeds. It is always advisable to store the seeds in hermetically sealed containers.
Lovage was an important plant in the medieval monastery garden. Hildegard used it for coughs and against lung and chest complaints.