Forgotten plants: once prolific in the kitchen gardens of our ancestors but now so rare that the average person might never even have heard of them. Many of these deserve to find space in our gardens again! And I will be writing about them and re-introducing you to them in the coming months.
Let’s start with lovage. I have grown lovage in my garden for the past several years. What started as an experiment of the “I have no idea what this plant is but let’s give it a try” variety has quickly become an important part of my kitchen garden.
History of Lovage
The history of lovage goes back several hundred years and spans continents. Lovage was mentioned by Charlemagne as a must have for all royal gardens, and was eventually brought to the new world by the colonists. My father-in-law recognized the plant immediately as one that used to grow outside his grandmother’s house, although even at that time he’s not sure it was used for any culinary purpose.
What It’s Like and How to Grow It
In the same plant family as celery, the dark green leaves grow on thick stalks with similar, but stronger, taste. The stems are tall and hollow. This perennial plant is one of the first plants to poke it’s head up in the spring, and it provides a continuous harvest well into the fall.
I grew my lovage from seed planted directly into the garden, but like most perennials it will also grow by root division if you are lucky enough to find someone who has this plant in their garden already. They grow tall — mine is about 6 feet — and wide, so give them a good space to grow in a sunny or partially shady location.
Lots to Love About Lovage
Lovage deserves a spot in our gardens for a number of reasons!
The entire plant is edible, from root to seed, and it has a long history of both culinary and herbal use. I personally use it much as I use celery, only a little more sparingly due to its stronger flavor.
I regularly add whole stalks to the stock pot, include finely chopped leaves in soups and stews, and add small amounts to egg dishes. It is wonderful cooked along with chicken and fish, especially with some lemon slices thrown in.
Young leaves can be eaten raw in salads, and the hollow stems make fun straws for summer drinks. I have also read that the roots can be peeled and eaten like a vegetable, and the seeds ground as a tasty salt substitute, although I have yet to try these for myself.
Additionally, it freezes well, so it can be enjoyed all year round.
As an herb, the touted benefits are numerous including benefits to digestion, a help to the respiratory tract, relief from rheumatism and urinary tract complaints, and help with menstrual troubles and poor blood circulation.
It’s amazing that one plant can do so much! It seems obvious why the settlers must have found the plant important enough to bring with them on their long journey to the new world.
So, are you ready to try lovage? There should still be plenty of time to get some planted in your garden ready for a fall harvest. Once you’ve got it growing, try one of my favorite recipes:
Lovage Lemon Chicken
- a handful of lovage, leaves and stems
- one lemon, sliced
- 4 whole chicken legs
- one onion, chopped
- a few carrots, chopped (potatoes are good, too, if your pan is big enough for them!)
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lay a bed of lovage in the bottom of a large baking pan. Tuck a lemon slice and lovage leaves under the skin of the chicken thighs. Place the thighs in the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Throw some chopped onion and carrots in around the chicken.
Bake, covered, for half an hour, and then uncovered for another half hour, or until the skin of the chicken is crisp.
If you really like the taste of lovage, try the original recipe. I loved it but it was too much lovage for my husband, so what’s above has become our own version.