“Dig that. Take it home;” Grandma once directed me. “It’s Polish parsley.”
“That” tasted somewhere between parsley and celery, and in late summer bloomed tall and yellow. I dug and planted it in partial shade, similar to her planting. Each spring it grew again from the ground, seeding itself into the day lilies and suckering plumb trees.
After that, I just forgot about it until I started seriously considering expanding my collection of perennial herbs, and their many uses.
One of the first steps toward creating abundance in the garden seems to be appreciating what one already has, so the search was on for the exact name of this herb and its uses.
It wasn’t listed anywhere under Polish parsley and I thought of Grandma, who was Polish, and what it tasted like to her, and smiled at the probability of her having received it from a friend, who used it as a flavoring herb. She attracted people who both loved exploring and sharing plants.
When I finally realized what it was named, lovage, and remembered who had given it to me, there was this laughable moment in which I really did cry. This was lovage from one of the most loving people I have ever known, and here again it was just what I needed.
Lovage (Levisticum officinale) enjoys growing in partial shade, and can hold its own against other plants. Unlike celery, once established, lovage doesn’t need extra water to thrive. It’s a great border plant.
According to permaculture specialist Sepp Holzer, lovage doesn’t just offer great flavor in many salads and cooked dishes, it also “encourages appetite, stimulates digestion and has a diuretic effect.”
Lovege is easily dug, seeded and shared. It sports leaves shaped much like conventional celery, but a darker green and more flavour than the anemic blanched leaves protruding from grocery store stocks.
As far as frost hardy herbs, you won’t find a better one. Lovage was bushing up long before the garlic, and by mid-May, already stood a foot high. Compare that to the slow to germinate, puny little celery and celeric transplants I started in the house and tended in the greenhouse for a couple months.
I’m debating whether to bother planting celery anymore.
If you’re keen on learning to live from the farm, lovage might not be all you need, but you can bet your salad greens she’ll come in handy.