How To Grow And Use Sage

Tips and instructions on growing and using sage in your herb garden.

Sage, or salvia, is a large genus of plants with over five hundred species. It is a member of the mint family. The most common varieties are used for seasoning in cooking and for medicines. Others are grown only for their beauty in the garden.

Sage plants are a natural attractor of butterflies, hummingbirds and bees, which are known for their pollination abilities. By strategic planting of sage in a flower or vegetable garden, pollination of other plants is encouraged.

Sage is simple to grown in almost any type of garden soil. Salvias prefer full sun, but do well in semi-shaded areas. The soil needs to have good drainage, as any of the salvias will root rot in overly wet conditions. Sage, or any other strong smelling herb, should not be grown near cucumbers, as the fruit will take on the flavor of the herb. Sage can be propagated by planting seeds or by stem cuttings.

Seeds can be planted as soon as the ground is warm, and should be planted 3/4 of an inch deep in rows approximately 3 feet apart. The young seedlings should be thinned to 12 - 18 inches apart once the plants have established themselves.

Stem cuttings are easy to root if placed in wet sand. Once the roots have appeared, plant the cuttings 1 inch deep and 1 - 1 1/2 feet apart.

Dwarf varieties of sage are perfect for container gardens and can be grown inside on a sunny windowsill or in a hanging basket where it will receive full light.

Sage leaves should be harvested before the flowers appear. There should be no problem harvesting the leaves at least twice during the growing season.

Sage leaves, stripped from the stems, can be used fresh in sauces or for stuffing. Crushed fresh sage leaves are a wonderful addition to cottage, cream or ricotta cheese. Powered sage can be used as a rub on fresh pork for a flavor reminiscent of stuffed turkey.

Dried sage is generally used for seasoning in sausages and for off-season cooking. Drying the sage leaves is a simple way to preserve the flavor for the winter months.

Before drying, rinse the leaves to remove any dirt or grit. Tie the leaf stems in small bundles and hang in a well ventilated room. As an alternative, the leaves can be spread out in an even layer on a screen. No matter which method is used, it is important to keep the drying plant out of direct sunlight. When they are throughly dry, store the leaves in an airtight container.

Fresh sage flowers and leaves are often used in potpourri or sachets. Combined with other herbs and flowers, the scent will last about one year if kept out of direct sunlight.

The flowers can also be bundled and dried. By burning the dried bundles, it is said, will purify the air in the room where it is burned. This is commonly known as smudging, and many American Indian traditions and some Eastern religions practice smudging to rid a home of negative energy.

Growing sage, whether for its beauty or for cooking, is a wonderful way to introduce yourself to herbs. Adding sage to your garden will give you hours of enjoyment as you watch the many types of wildlife it attracts. Fresh sage added to your meals will open up a world of new taste sensations. Sage you have dried yourself will have much more flavor than what you can buy at the store, guaranteeing the perfect compliment to your culinary dishes.

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