Sage has graced our planet for thousands of years; originally native to the Mediterranean, sage is now a commonly grown herb all over the world.
Today we mainly associate sage with its use to add delightful flavour to our culinary creations, but though out the Middle Ages sage was held in particularly high esteem as a ‘complete miracle herb’ and its healing properties were associated with all known diseases and ailments.
Super Sage Facts & Appearance
Sage is a perennial shrub with a woody stem and is actually part of the mint family. Its scientific name is Salvia officinalis and it originates from the Lamiaceae family.
Sage varies in size and colour from thin narrow leaves to flatter, thicker, leaves with a velvety texture. Its colour ranges from pale green, through the colour spectrum to a rich and velvety emerald and then onto deep purple hues. Variegated sage has lashes of white and purple adorning its leaves.
In summer they break into bloom with pretty, purple flowers, even their leaves are quite attractive and if they’re appealing to your eye they make a great ornamental plant to decorate your garden – trim them back heavily in spring if you desire a truly bushy plant. As they advance in age they can develop quite woody stems and their leaves may become a little bitter.
The word sage derives from the Latin word ‘Salvare’ meaning to ‘heal’ or ‘save’ and its natural benefits are board in terms of healing ability, but a few cures stand out above all others.
In particular, it was thought to aid with conception, help cure the plague, strengthen the memory, protect against cancer, aid digestion and relieve ailments like sore throats and gum disease along with curing the common cold.
Sage also contains Rosmarinic acid, a strong antioxidant that is believed to be beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Considered an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant, sage is also extremely beneficial in treating all manner of skin conditions from cuts and grazes to burns. It was used to treat excessive sweating and perspiration and has well known calmative effects.
Uses for Sage
Sage infused in hot water then gargled can relieve a sore throat or drink it as a tea to help relax.
Add finely chopped, fresh sage to your next stuffing.
Sage is pork’s best friend – add 6-8 fresh leaves to the bottom the roasting pan next time you cook a pork belly.
Add some pineapple sage to a jug of iced tea or when you’re cooking your next marmalade.
Sage and burnt butter sauce – crisp up some sage leaves in a frying pan, add some butter and cook until its nut-brown – a classic pasta sauce!
Try to be inventive – replace one of your commonly used herbs with sage and just give it a go – you won’t truly appreciate the different taste sage can offer an everyday dish until you try it.
Types of Sage
There are hundreds of different sage varieties around the world and many have a slightly different flavour or aroma. Pineapple sage is one of my favourites, when you rub the leaves they let off a delicate fruity aroma.
Variegated Sage – in varying colours
Sage loves full sun and will grow happily anywhere it can languish in a sun-drenched garden bed with soil that offers good drainage – drainage is important; in soil with poor drainage sage is susceptible to root-rot. It’s a drought-tolerant plant so don’t overwater it.
It’s just as happy in a pot as in the ground, although it doesn’t like heavy cold, in fact, frost is likely to kill it off – try to resist over-harvesting young plants in winter and consider adding a layer of mulch to your garden bed if you live in a climate that experiences extremely cold or frosty winters.
Sage is also great for attracting pollinators like bees to your garden.
It’s best grown from cuttings – take the cuttings in late spring or early summer – trim a minimum length of 6” long, remove the lower leaves from the stem with shears or clippers (resist the urge to snap them off) and lightly dip the bottom half of the stem in a rooting powder and plant into seed raising mix.
Lightly spray with water – it’s important not to overwater it remember. Once the cutting has developed roots it’s ready to plant.
Hydro Tip – If planting in a hydroponic set-up use an inert / sterile media mix like perlite and peatmoss or coco coir, something that won’t compact too heavily and keep your pH levels around 5 to 6.5.
Prune sage around springtime to encourage optimal growth and fertilise around 8 to 10 times a year if planted in the ground or monthly if in a pot.
If your sage starts to get too woody or terribly attacked by bugs cut it right back, don’t be afraid, it will most likely grow back happy and healthy!
Sage is hardly enough to grow indoors but requires 6 to 8 hours of sunlight – find a very sunny windowsill or if you have the means try supplementing sunlight with a fluorescent light source.
Sage makes an excellent companion for Rosemary, carrots, cabbage, beans and strawberries.
Delicate, young sage leaves have the best flavour, aroma and texture.
Sage leaves are perfect for drying. Hang a bunch undercover and allow the leaves to dry completely before storing in an air-tight container – dried sage will just about last forever if stored correctly.
Freezing fresh leaves is a great option if you live in a climate that experiences extreme frost. Before winter sets in – wash the leaves, dry completely and store in an airtight container or zip-lock bag in the freezer.