Salvia officinalis. That’s botanical-speak for sage. You might want to consider bringing this delicious, healthy herb into your world. Keep your own supply by growing sage in your backyard garden space, or in containers on your deck or patio. Container gardening is our choice for Garden 2013. A couple days ago, we bought a couple bedding plants of organic sage, and one each of winter savory and basil.
Our ancestors could probably recognize herbs on-sight. But their progeny aren’t quite as hip. What looks to us like bothersome weeds are, in reality, herbs; friend, not foe. (Like the misunderstood dandelion. Later on that.)
Sage enjoyed a robust reputation in the Middle Ages for being a cure-all. Bestowing wisdom was just one of its virtues. (Sage means “wise man.”) Some sage tea-drinkers fondly call it “the thinker’s tea”; good for the memory. Famous herbalist – reputed to be the father of herbs, Dr. Nicholas Culpeper, prescribed gargling sage tea for patients suffering from sore gums. Sage was also good for relieving tuberculosis patients of their night sweats. Even today, sage is a go-to for excessive perspiration. Modern famous herbalist Rosemary Gladstar remarks in her Medicinal Herbs, A Beginner’s Guide, that “Sage is another remarkable culinary remedy, as valuable in the medicine cabinet as in the kitchen.”
Sage is abundant in its varieties, about 900 of them, in fact. Colorful, too. They bloom in yellow or red, violet or purple, pink or white. But it’s the leaves that are used in teas and in cooking. The green sage has rough-textured leaves that are narrow, pale and gray-green.
That sage is also known as garden sage. It’s one of those cornerstones, must-haves, you’ll want in your herb garden. The perennial, which will produce for three or four years, grows as high as four feet. It’s ready to harvest when it reaches a height of eight inches. A couple planting notes: sage and cabbages make great garden buddies. The sage wards off the nasty cabbage butterfly. But sage and cukes — well, they just aren’t good teammates at all; their chem profile isn’t compatible. When cold weather settles in, if you gardened in a container, great news! Bring it inside for the winter. Just make sure it gets plenty of sunlight. But sage grown in the ground, according to one source, winters well if protected with snow, or mulch of straw and/or leaves.
There you have it — some of the highlights of sage gardening. Oh, and this. If you live in Zones 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, your sage should do well.
Grow it yourself and wait for the harvest, or buy your fresh sage from a sustainable and/or organic source. Ditto with dried sage. Know your source. Then, use it in these ways:
In the kitchen –
- Egg or tomato dishes.
- Poultry – chicken, goose, or duck.
- Veal and pork – Try this: If you like what sage does for turkey but you don’t love the taste of the bird, crush dried leaves on ham or pork.
- Cottage cheese – Chop fresh sage and mix well.
- Add a couple leaves of fresh sage to dinner salads.
- Herbed butter: Chop fresh leaves and a garlic clove and add to softened butter.
In the medicine chest –
- It’s a tonic tea, warming and extra good with lemon balm and honey.
- It’s a mouthwash.
- It can help digest a meal of rich, fatty meat.
- It fights colds and flu.
- It fights inflammation in the mouth and throat, even the tonsils.
- It’s a mild hormonal stimulant, says Rosemary Gladstar, and helps women with regular menstruation; or women having hot flashes and night sweats; helps with leukorrhea.
Rosemary says, “Sage seems to work, in part, by “drying” and regulating fluids in the body.” Amen and thank you, Rosemary!
A couple of cautionary notes: Nursing moms should avoid sage. It can prematurely dry up their milk. Another source says that, “… this herb should not be taken internally by pregnant women, nursing mothers and epileptic patients.” One of sage’s key constituents is thujones. Too much of it can cause elevated heart rate, convulsions, or confusion.