Lovage and other unusual herbs?

tracydr(9b)April 4, 2011

I have some lovage seeds and I'm very excited about it. From the description, it sounds like something I can really enjoy in my cooking. What types of conditions does it need, is it a cool or warm weather herb? I'm in Phoenix so I have several seasons to consider when deciding best time to plant and if to provide part-shade or full-sun. I've been thinking of placing it in an area similar to where my parsley patch thrives, 3-4 hours of sun, thick mulch and able to keep damp. Plant in fall after it cools off?

Also, I have anise and bergamot seeds and some fenugreek. Same questions, plus, how do you use the fenugreek?

Finally, I'd like to try a curry plant, if I can find one? Does the curry fresh taste like curry powder? Again, growing conditions would be helpful. I like some curries, but not others, I always thought curry was a mix of spices, not a single spice?

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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

I believe lovage is one of those seeds that is best to sow as fresh as possible but I could be misremembering. Maybe I'm thinking of angelica which I know that is true for. Either way, I'd start the lovage seeds as soon as possible indoors and plant outdoors when big enough and hardened off. Lovage will tolerate light shade even here in my much cooler zone. I would keep it someplace that is cooler and moister rather than hotter and drier in your location.

Fenugreek is used in Indian cuisine as well as other middle eastern and asian cuisine. Just google it for recipes. Growing fenugreek

Bergamot (Monarda sp.) is a native plant and can tolerate light shade. It will wilt horribly in overly hot and dry locations. Give it the coolness it needs.

Anise is a nice one for sun but in your zone a cooler location would probably be best.

What is the latin name of the "curry plant" you have? It may not be edible.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 4:33PM
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Lovage (a stout-stemmed hardy perennial, to 2 metres tall and 1 metre wide) will tolerate either full sun or partial shade, depending on prevailing climate conditions. It grows best in climates where it can receive a period of dormancy in winter. In spring, or when the centres of the plants start to die out, established plants can be divided by digging up the dormant clumps and splitting them with a sharp spade. Sow seed in autumn as soon as they ripen, at an ideal temperature of 20�C, and about 5mm deep. Seeds are viable for 2-3 years. They need light to germinate, so just barely cover them, and they usually germinate in less than 2 weeks. Grown from seed, the plant may take 3-4 years to reach full maturity. Seeds do not store well, so use seed which is as fresh as possible. It prefers a very rich, moist but not heavy soil. If in sandy soil, fertilise well for good leaf colour. The plant dies back in winter but grows back in spring. Mulch the roots to protect against freezing. Lovage can be grown in a container. Make sure you keep it trimmed � it can withstand heavy pruning. Prefers a soil with pH 5.0-7.6. It is a very adaptable plant and frequently occurs as a garden escape. It will last several years if well cared for, usually about 8 years. After about 4 years when it becomes too woody, the roots can be used as a vegetable after the bitter skin has been removed. Keep the plants well watered in autumn and spring. Water deeply to encourage deep root development and take special care that young plants are never allowed to dry out. Lovage is susceptible to leaf miners.

Curry Plant (Helichrysum angustifolium) is a small shrub with silver-grey foliage. It is edible, but is no substitute for a real curry-blend. It might give a tiny hint of curry flavour in something like rice, but otherwise is fairly useless.

Curry Leaf Tree (Murraya koenigii)is actually one of the ingredients of some curry-blends. Again, not a substitute for the real thing. It's a tree growing to about 6 metres.

Anise self-seeds readily. Sow seed in spring. The seed should be fresh and may be slow to germinate, especially in cold conditions. They need a temperature of 20-25�C to germinate. Germination occurs in 1-2 weeks. It does not transplant well, so sow in situ. Thin out seedlings about 20cm apart. If planted too late and hot weather sets in, the plants will be lanky and small, and may bolt to seed. They need a 140 day growing season. These plants may be divided. Anise prefers a light, well-drained sandy loam with pH 7.0-7.5 in a warm, sunny position, but in hot climates the soil should be kept fairly moist, and the plant should be protected from afternoon sun. It should be well fertilised. Tie strings to stakes around the plant so that it will not fall over after watering. For best results, it should have a long, cool, frost-free growing season to produce large plants that will yield a large amount of seeds. It is a fairly slow-growing plant.

Bergamot (Monada didyma): Perennial to 1 metre tall and 40 cm wide. Also known as Oswego Tea and Bee Balm. Oval leaves, smelling like mint and basil, with pointed tips on stems to 1 metre tall. Grows in large clumps and spreads on runners (watch it!). Red flowers, which smell of oranges, emerge in shaggy clumps in summer.

Cultivation: Propagate by seed, sown in warm soil in spring, or by root division, or by cuttings taken in spring. Refrigerate seeds for several weeks before sowing, especially in warm climates. Seeds should be barely covered and kept moist until germination. Ideal temperature is 20�C. Germination usually occurs in 10-40 days. Does best in rich, moist soil in partial shade, though in mild climates it will tolerate full sun provided it gets plenty of water and afternoon shade. Can be successfully grown in a large pot. The plant should be divided about every 3 years, discarding the central portion and the outer sections of the clump being replanted or dig up the central portion and replace it with fresh soil so that new shoots can fill in. In autumn, cut it back right to the ground. In very cold climates, it will die back in winter and the roots should be protected with a good layer of mulch. Its aggressive root system can cause it to become invasive. Susceptible to powdery mildew. Thin clumps to promote air circulation and cut diseased plants back to encourage healthy foliage. Fairly drought-resistant. Rarely blooms in the first season. Does not tolerate damp winters or chalky soils.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 5:33PM
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Excellent information. I'll skip the curry. Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 11:35PM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

Lovage is one of those seeds that should be sown as fresh as possible. If you don't succeed in germinating it now, I'd wait and buy some from this summer's harvest as soon as it's available, then plant it right away.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 4:27AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

The lovage patch I'm most familiar with is about 12 feet across and fights it out in a weedy area near my allotment. It is growing in heavy clay in what used to be a damp ditch, now filled in, and keeps ahead of the stinging nettles without any trouble. It is an attractive architectural plant but not dainty! It dies down in winter to basal foliage and shoots back up in the spring. Bear in mind my max average summer temp is 71f. We also have copius rain. In Phoenix I should think it would enjoy the coolest spot you can find. Apparently it is hardy to z4.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 4:58AM
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I happen to like the curry plant - those silvery leaves make a very attractive contrast to the green of other plants.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 6:22PM
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