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If I asked you to close your eyes and think of sage, what memory comes into your mind? My sister remembers that time we rented an apartment, she had a friend of a friend who came in and did some smudging – burning dried sage to release negative energy from the room.
We found it odd then, we even giggled, not knowing that burning dried sage had deep roots in ancient traditional medicine.
For me, when I close my eyes and think of sage, juicy turkey comes to mind. I can’t help but salivate at the memory of oven-roasted vegetables and a table setting that is full of colors and fragrant aroma. I imagine all the festive staples of the best holiday of the year – thanksgiving. For its flavor alone, the sage plant has been dubbed by The Herb Society of America as the Herb of Thanksgiving.
I would happily agree to that title, grab my share of the turkey and go on my merry way. But it is more than some flavor on the side! Whether you want to add intensity and earthy-aroma to your dishes all-year-round, or you’re looking for alternative medicine, the sage plant has all the answers for you.
What are sage plants?
Many dishes have been elevated by the strong flavor of this herbaceous plant. Sage has been used in kitchens from ancient times to the present. Because of that, it is also otherwise known as Culinary Sage. Scientifically, it is called Salvia Officinalis, a perennial, evergreen subshrub. It has gray-green leaves that help it blend well with other foliage, and it can be used fresh or dried. This plant blooms with flowers of blue to purple colors, its beauty, and variety make it a great ornamental for your garden.
A member of the mint family Lamiaceae, sage originates from the Mediterranean and is now naturalized and cultivated in different regions of the world. Cooking the leaves of this plant gives you a savory, spicy, and earthy flavor that is best used in meat and poultry dishes.
The herb also possesses healing properties that we will cover in the next sections. As a garden herb, it attracts pollinators. It is hardy and easy to grow and does not struggle with harmful pests. There really is plenty of reasons why you should be growing these powerhouse herbs in your garden.
Different Types of Sage Plants
Sage Salvia Officinalis
The garden or common sage (Salvia Officinalis) may be the most popular kind used for cooking. Still, you can search for different types of sage plants that are available near you. These plants vary in flavor and use and are also a fun addition to your growing herb garden.
If you’ve ever cooked with store-bought dried herbs, and wondered why this bottle of sage doesn’t quite have the same taste as the garden-fresh one, this is the answer to your confusion. Greek sage or salvia fruticosa is the most popular dried sage for sale.
The clary sage has very large leaves and edible flowers. It has properties that make it a good flavoring for wine and tea. You can also add them to your omelets! But if you’ve ever grown up with a resourceful grandmother like mine, you know this type for its smell. Dried up and bundled, this plant is thrown into dressers and trunks, it adds a distinct fragrance to the clothes.
Like the common sage, the salvia gesneriiflora or grapefruit sage leaves can be cooked and eaten. But this plant differs from the others because you can also eat the flowers fresh. They have really sweet nectars that attract pollinators and you can pop it in your mouth fresh from the plant!
The South African sage has a distinct flavor compared to other sages. Get a whiff of its leaves and you’ll enjoy a hint of lemon and pepper in the taste. Many cooks use this type to improve seafood dishes with some spice.
Why Should I Grow Common Sage?
Throughout Europe, the fresh sage plant has found its way to kitchens and notable cuisines. In Britain, it is considered one of the essential herbs alongside thyme, rosemary, and parsley. In Italy, it is a central condiment for dishes like saltimbocca. It serves as a key ingredient in food like the Lincolnshire sausage and the Sage Derby cheese. In Egypt, the leaves are a popular flavor for hot black tea.
Even without knowing the medicinal and herbal benefits, the strong, delicious flavor of the fresh sage leaf is more than enough reason for you to grow these plants in your garden.
More than just being an edible herb that’s used for cooking, this green herb is a powerhouse in the health department. The botanical name salvia comes from the Latin “salvare” which means to heal. Research shows that sage is so rich in vitamin K – the nutrient the body needs to heal wounds.
For those watching their weight, this plant is low in calories and has all the health support you need. Not only is it high in nutrients, but sage is also loaded with antioxidants that can fight disease. Health benefits include improved brain function, reduce menopausal symptoms, and lowered bad cholesterol, better brain memory, and fight against certain types of cancer.
Research has also shown that it has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties that kill germs. Those with a sore throat, dental problems, and mouth disease may get help and treatment by sage.
With all the health benefits, herbal practitioners recommend consuming sage every day. Several studies are exploring the development of medical drugs with sage. One can search online and find that many Asian and Middle Eastern countries are pioneering in pharmacological and therapeutic studies on the salvia species.
Burning sage is another way to get the most out of this herb. Poor air quality is linked to various diseases and burning dried sage is one way to purify the air. The smoke is also known to repel insects and remove bacteria from the air.
Others also believe that the smoke can help release negative energy, improve one’s mood, and reduce stress and anxiety. If you want to try smudging, ask an expert to guide you.
How To Plant Sage
Common Sage is a beginner-friendly herb and will grow almost anywhere, but if you are planting sage for food, know that the leaves are tastiest when it has full sun exposure. This plant is hardy from zone 4-11 and should be planted in well-draining and dry soil. Many home gardeners agree that sage is a container plant. That means you can definitely harvest fresh sage right in your kitchen.
I don’t recommend planting sage from seed because that may require more careful attention. You can choose to propagate from cuttings or layering.
- Choose a healthy stem and cut from the very tip. Three inches would be a good size.
- Use rooting hormone on the freshly cut stem and plant on vermiculite or sterile sand.
- After one and a half months, roots will begin to grow. Transfer to a properly-sized pot.
Certain types of sage produce long stems that can be propagated by layering. I personally enjoy this propagation process because it is simple and you can do this with the plants still in their containers.
- Take long stems and use a wire to secure them on the soil. Leave a few inches of the tip for the plant to grow.
- After a month, check the roots and you may find them growing on the stems.
- Cut the portion with the new roots and transfer it to a pot.
Once you’ve decided your preferred propagation method, remember to plant young sage plants when the ground hits a temperature of 65°F. This time should be about two weeks before the last frost.
How to Cultivate Sage
For a healthy, well-flavored sage, reduce the amounts of soil fertilization. It’s tempting to do this, especially, when you don’t see the bushy plant growing. But doing so will lessen the leaves intense taste.
Use well-draining soil that will drain completely when watered. Ideally, sandy or loamy soil is used for this type of plant. If your soil has a high clay content, add compost to the mix. The organic matter will keep the soil dry after watering. Make sure that your soil has a pH balance between 6.0 to 7.0.
Help the leaves grow healthy by giving it medium to full sun exposure. The sage plant is ideal for container gardening, and so, get them on a sunny window if are growing them indoors.
The garden sage and all other types are designed to be drought-tolerant. A little bit of water goes a long way for this plant. Avoid over-watering the sage. Wait until you’ve got a dry soil to give it another round of watering.
Sage is fairly drought resistant and you should avoid over-watering the it. Water only when the soil starts to dry out. Sage grows well in containers as well as in garden beds.
The sage leaves grow out round and bushy. Give each sage plant space between 24″ to 36″ apart.
If you are wondering how you can add a common sage garden to your lot, but don’t know where to begin, a good guide is to remember that sage can be planted with fellow perennials. You can plant it near carrots or tomatoes, but you can also let the sage plants grow their purple flowers! They’ll be gorgeous in your ornamental garden, too.
How To Harvest Sage Plants
How and when to harvest sage depends upon your use for them. For the fresh sage, you can harvest when you need them. Simply clip the stems right above where two leaves meet. For the dried sage, conduct a harvest of large amounts during the growing season. Cut the sage stems back and harvest only half of the plant. Doing this also encourages a well-shaped plant.
If you want to harvest with a strong, high aromatic content, harvest the sage leaves in the morning, right after the cold dew has dried. Always prune back woody stems in early spring.
Sage is a powerful herb that has a host of uses. It is edible and can be eaten raw or cooked, fresh or rubbed. You can enjoy it simply for its flavor or religiously incorporate it into your diet for numerous health benefits. In today’s crisis, consider an alternative way to heal – sage, the healing herb!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is sage herb used for?
Sage is used both for cooking and medicinal purposes. With its strong flavor, it is often used to season fatty meats and sausages. The leaves are packed with so much nutrients it is also used to make medicine. It can help alleviate digestive problems, improve brain function, and lower bad cholesterol.
Is sage poisonous?
No. Sage is not poisonous. However, some species of sage (like the garden sage/ s.officinalis) contain the chemical thujone.
Thujone becomes toxic when it is ingested in high quantities. The chemical can lead to liver and nervous system damage. But it is scientifically proven that it is implausible to consume toxic amounts of thujone through foods. Experts advise a limit of sage tea consumption to 3-6 cups a day.
Can you eat sage raw?
The herb is rarely used raw. Its aroma and flavor is so strong, eating raw sage leaves would be unpleasant and pungent. Sage is a member of the resinous herb family, for their harsh flavors to mellow, they need to be cooked.
What is the herb sage?
Sage is a staple in the food and herbal medicine world. A member of the mint family, it originates from the Mediterranean. It is an easy-to-grow perennial that needs full sun and well-draining soil. The plant serves multiple purposes and can be used dried or fresh.