Notes from Herb Heaven

Lovage

This is a plant very similar to celery but bigger – grows to about 1-2 m when in flower. One plant is more than enough for an average family. Lovage is a perennial herb, though it dies down in winter. Keep the ground well cultivated and the plant can last for several years. It likes cool moist soil, tolerates frost and does not do well in the tropics. If grown in warm areas, mulch the soil to keep it cool. Will grow in sun and semi-shade.
Dig some compost and decayed animal manure into the soil. Propagate by root division in early spring or by seeds sown in the late summer or early autumn. Transplant seedlings out into the garden in autumn or very early spring. Self-seeding occurs quite readily and without much fuss.

When Spring takes its first steps of the season, give it one application of plant food. If you encounter aphids on your lovage, spray with a hard jet of water or treat with an organic spray. In cases of leaf miner, remove the infected leaves, which will be blotched with white. Most herbs love being clipped and if you want a bushier plant, prune the yellow summer flowers borne in umbels rather like fennel and parsnip.

Medicinally the whole of the plant is used; roots, leaves and seeds. The highly aromatic leaves, when dried, make a very agreeable tea. The roots and fruits (seeds) are used for stomach complaints, fever, colic, flatulence, bladder problems and even rheumatism. It is said that a cooled infusion made from the seeds can be used as eye drops to combat red eyes and dim vision. Lovage leaves taste a bit like a peppery celery and can be chopped into a salad. Use only a little though, so as not to overwhelm the rest of the tastes. Add chopped young stalks to any soup, stew or casserole, especially poultry cooked in liquid. Use it to perk up a vegetable or fish dish.


Cheese Bake (for 4)

Serves 4

100g fresh white breadcrumbs
375ml milk
25 g butter
150g grated cheddar cheese
3 eggs – well beaten
salt and ground black pepper
1 Tbs chopped lovage

Heat butter with milk to melt and pour over
breadcrumbs in a bowl. Let it stand for 10 minutes. 
Add the cheese, eggs, seasoning and lovage. 
Pour into a buttered ovenproof dish. 
Bake at 200°C for half and hour or until well risen and golden. 

Ideal for a light lunch, served with a green salad.

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