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Lovage is the undisputed genius of the celery family — its stems, seeds, and large attractive leaves have a pungent and complex celery yet anise flavor. Although it’s a perennial plant in other regions, for us the lovage usually doesn’t survive summer, so I grow it as an annual. Planting lovage in the cool months works best — enjoy it until about late July.

For longest life, plant lovage in enriched soil in a somewhat shaded spot. Use it often to promote stem and leaf production. It’s a beautiful addition to almost any part of the garden where it can be partially shaded, reaching 2 to 3 feet in height, and spreading to about 2 feet. Ordinary garden care suits lovage just fine, so long as it gets plenty of water when the temperatures rise.

The tender young leaves are great in soups, stews, and salads — especially tuna or chicken salad. The crisp hollow stems are sometimes used as straws in summer drinks, and they can be blanched and eaten like celery.

Lovage is a key ingredient in the well-known British aperitif known as Pimm’s Cup!