Despite the below normal temperatures here in Minnesota during the month of April, that have also crept into the beginning of May... this week there is a change in the air, and along with it are signs that spring has returned. A Dwarf Korean Lilac that is just beginning to bud out and Autumn Joy Sedum shoots poking through the soil.
A hardy perennial herb, that has been dutifully displaying its early spring green and purple splendor for years in my zone 3 garden, is lovage. It grows six feet tall and spans three feet, so it's an excellent background plant behind shorter perennials. It self-seeds, so the plants can (and should) be divided to replant in a new plot so they don't become overcrowded. Rabbits don't nibble it and it's almost completely resistant to insects.
Every part of the plant is edible. The leaves and stem can be used in cooking like one would use celery. The large, aromatic roots can be peeled and eaten as a vegetable. The seeds can be harvested from the seed stalk that forms in early summer and used like celery seed. I have found the plant's flavor, which is a combination of anise and celery, to be quite over-powering... a little goes a long way. How about this little bit of fun? Remove the leaves and the hollow stem can be used as a drinking straw for summer beverages. The straw's flavor has a bit of a "bite", however, when used fresh. I prefer to use the stem for a straw after the plant has dried in the fall.