The Complete Guide To Sage

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Sage is native to the northern Mediterranean coast and is hardy in colder climates. This perennial evergreen shrub has woody stems, gray-green leaves and blue flowers. It prefers a slightly alkaline soil, tolerates drought conditions and grows between one and three feet tall.

There are several varieties that add flavor to any meal and make an attractive addition to any landscape:

  • Blue sage grows to three feet tall, has blue flowers and is used in potpourris.
  • Purple sage grows to 18 inches tall and has decorative purple foliage.
  • Clary sage is three feet tall, has huge gray leaves and showy lilac and pink flowers.
  • Holt’s mammoth sage is a fast grower that produces large quantities of leaves that are perfect for drying.
  • Pineapple sage has bright red flowers, a pineapple scent and can be grown in a container. Use in drinks, jams and jellies.

Growing Sage

Sage is the perfect companion to a garden. Sage helps cabbages, carrots, strawberries, tomatoes and marjoram grow. But, when planted near onions, neither the sage nor the onions will perform well. Here are more sage growing tips:

  • Hardy in Zones 4 – 8
  • Plant in moderately rich, well-drained soil.
  • Prefers full sun.
  • Keep soil moist for young plants; water established plants in dry weather.
  • Prune plants in the spring to prevent plants from setting seed. Do not prune after August to give the plant time to mature before frost.
  • In the winter, cover sage with a three-inch layer of mulch.
  • Replace plants every three to six years. Older plants become woody and grow fewer leaves.
  • Sage pests include slugs, spider mites and spittlebugs.

How To Transplant Sage

Grow sage from a transplant. Sage seed does not store well and the plant takes two years to mature. Also, sage can cross-pollinate and the seed may not resemble the parent plant. Purchase a healthy transplant or start new plants from a mature plant. Here are some different ways to propagate a sage plant:

  • When dividing large plants, use the newer growth for transplants.
  • Take a four-inch cutting in the fall and root indoors during the winter. Place the cutting in potting mix, set in a sunny window and keep the soil moist but not saturated.
  • To layer a stem, pin a two-inch section of woody stem to the ground leaving at least four inches of stem to create a new plant. The stem will root where it is pinned. Cut the stem between the main plant and the new roots and carefully transplant the newly rooted section.

Harvesting Sage

Sage should be harvested in the morning before the sun becomes hot but after the dew has evaporated. Cut off the top six to eight inches of growth. If harvesting in large quantities, this can be done twice during the growing season.

Sage can be used fresh or dried:

  • To use fresh sage leaves, rinse the leaves and stems, snip off the leaves and add to a favorite dish.
  • Store fresh leaves in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • To dry sage leaves, start with clean and dry leaves, spread on a cloth or wire rack, set in a cool and shady place.
  • Dry bundled stems by hanging upside down in a cool, dark place.
  • Store dry leaves in a dark colored airtight container.

Culinary Uses For Sage

Sage has a lemony taste with a bitter camphor flavor that blends well with many foods.

  • Flavor vegetables such as artichokes, tomatoes, asparagus, carrots, squash, eggplant and Brussels sprouts.
  • Crush sage leaves and blend into cottage cheese or cream cheese.
  • Cook in omelets, soups, marinades and stuffing.
  • Make slits in a pork roast and stuff with fresh sage leaves.
  • Season sausages, meat pies, beef, pork, lamb and poultry.
  • Wrap large sage leaves around Cornish game hens or quail before roasting.
  • Steep dried leaves to make a tea.

Sage has other uses:

  • In the garden, sage attracts bees and repels cabbage moths.
  • As an ornamental, sage is planted in borders and complements red and orange flowers.
  • In an herbal bath, sage stimulates the skin.
  • Decorate a dried or living wreath with sage.
Last Updated: August 2, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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