Thursday, May 31, 2007

Herb: Lovage

I was given some seed for the herb "LOVAGE" . I have not grown this before nor was I familar with it. I am very excited that all the plants I have started from the seed are doing great. I looked up some info about this cool herb as I am trying to find the perfect spot to plant it. Here is some information about it.

how to use and grow Lovage
Lovage is a wonderful, very old herb with properties perfect for today's healthy lifestyles. Its unique flavor, which is a combination of strong celery flavour with a hint of anise, lends a wonderful flavor to soups, stews, stocks, salads, meat, potato and tomato dishes. You can use it much like you would celery or parsley, but with a lighter hand since it does have a stronger flavor. It is also used as a natural salt substitute, and is said to be an aphrodisiac - hence the name. And every part of the plant - leaves, stems, roots and seed - is edible!

Fortunately for us, Lovage is not a small, delicate plant. It will grow to about 6' - 0 feet tall in 5 years, so you want to have a nice roomy corner of the garden set aside for it. Due to its statuesque size and solid green leaves, it looks great as a backdrop in the perennial flower garden, and is indeed often used for that purpose. It can also be grown in a large pot, or tub on the balcony. And in a couple of years, you never need to buy celery or parsley again - other than for celery sticks with Chez Whiz.

Here then are in the why and wherefores of how to grow and use Lovage.

So, one plant is enough for a family. It can take partial shade and does better in soil that is fairly fertile and not too dry. If you have a longer growing season, simply direct seed it outside. Hereabouts, start seeds indoors about 6 weeks ahead for transplanting, or buy a plant from a garden centre. Germination takes about ten to twelve days. Lovage seeds need to be fairly fresh, and to make sure you get one good plant, sow at least 4 seeds in a pot. When you move the plant to the garden keep it well watered for the first couple weeks, and feed with a natural fertilizer. The first year you won't see it's full growth - it will only reach about 2 feet - but you can begin to harvest at 1' - 0 tall. Cut stems from the outside, leaving the center intact, and chop up to use in recipes.

Lovage is a perennial which dies back to the ground in winter, and regrows in spring. To keep you in Lovage over the winter, you can dry or freeze the leaves - the latter preserves the flavour - and dry the stems and grind them as needed.

Lovage seeds can also be used. They have a sweeter flavor than the leaves and can be used much like celery seed. A large seed stalk will form in early summer. Allow the seed to ripen until they begin to turn brown, then cut the stalk and dry the seeds. If you do not want to harvest seeds cut the stalk right away; this encourages more leaf growth. If you leave it be, the plant will reseed in your garden.

After several seasons dig up your Lovage in the spring and divide the root, or find and transplant new self-sown seedlings. You can preserve or use the root by washing it, and cutting it into small pieces. Dry the pieces on a screen and store away from light. Or, you can give the root to a fellow gardener to plant and grow their own Lovage plant. A gift that will be much appreciated. The Lovage plant will do much better after division.

Lovage is best used fresh, but you can freeze the leaves and stems. Blanch a handful of leaves in boiling water VERY quickly then quickly throw into a bowl of ice water for a couple of minutes. Drain, place in plastic freezer bags and freeze. The frozen Lovage can be minced and used in cooked dishes.

Add a teaspoon of fresh minced Lovage to your chicken soup during the last 15 or 20 minutes of cooking. You can also add it to hot or chilled vegetable, meat, potato or tomato soups. Add one to two tablespoons of minced fresh Lovage to your meatloaf recipes. Harvest Lovage seeds to use whole or ground in cakes, meats, biscuits, breads, sauces, cheeses, salad dressings, or pickles. Add fresh leavest to your favorite potato salad or coleslaw too.

Today's Garage Sale Treasure

Quinn is the proud new owner of a bright red wheelbarrow. He has been looking for one his size for a while now. Today we found this beauty. He has already used it to move the plants and pots to the vegetable/herb garden. To have a 6 yr old who is excited about his own wheelbarrow is a treasure.

I can catch my breath

Today, this is beautiful to me. An empty calendar- for just a moment- until I fill it in.

Our Fishy Friends


Scented Geraniums

I am growing scented geraniums this year. A neighbor has inspired me to try these. She keeps them indoors as houseplants over the winter and her plants have done great. I have about eight different kinds from Strawberry to Ginger to Lemon. The boys love plants with scented foilage. Scented Geraniums smell so good. I especially love the the one called "old Fashioned Rose". I am going to try out this recipe when I get a chance.

Rose Scented Geranium Shortbread
makes 8 wedges
These cookies are rich and buttery, with the delicate floral scent of roses.

12 T. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp.
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. rose water*
2 Tbs sugar or scented sugar
8 large rose scented geranium leaves, washed and dried

Cream the butter and confectioner's sugar until light and fluffy. In another bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add this to the butter mixture. Add the rose water and mix well. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften a bit. Butter and flour the bottom of an 8" round baking pan. On waxed paper, pat the dough out to the size and shape of the pan.

Take the geraniums and place them in a circle on the dough, about 1" in from the edge. Press them into the dough. Lay the dough in the pan and pat it out all the way to the edges. Score the dough lightly, dividing it into 8 pie shaped pieces. Sprinkle with the sugar. Refrigerate the dough for another 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325�F. Bake the shortbread for about 20 minutes or until it just starts to change color. Allow it to cool in the pan. Remove the shortbread from the pan, take the baked leaves off the bottom. Cut into wedges along the marks and serve, garnished with additional rose scented geranium leaves.

*rose water is available in liquor stores, specialty food stores, and Middle Eastern delis.

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