“He who would live for aye must eat sage in May.” – Anonymous
This time of year here in the US, the holidays are upon us. Our Thanksgiving will occur at the end of the month with Christmas a month later. There is a lot of turkey and stuffing being made, and a key herb seasoning in these is sage; Salvia officinalis part of the Lamiaceae or Labiatae (mint) family.
Sage, a staple in my herb garden, is a wonderful small perennial shrub. I love the gray green foliage that glimmers in the sun and looks gorgeous when frosted (as above). Of course an added bonus is the soft leaves and incredible smell. And sage is versatile as it is used worldwide for culinary and medicinal purposes. As the quote above says, sage is a great preventative against old age.
I am profiling this wonderful herb for my Simply The Best-Herb series as I link in with [email protected]Elephant’s Eye on False Bay for her meme, Dozen for Diana.
Salvia and the name “sage” come from the Latin salvere “to save”, which refers to the medicinal properties of the plant. Officinalis refers to those plants that are valued for their medicinal or culinary properties.
Salvia officinalis has many common names. Scarlett Sage, common sage, garden sage, kitchen sage, culinary sage and broadleaf sage.
Sage is native to the Mediterranean region, but has naturalized throughout the world.
Salvia officinalis is almost evergreen in my garden, with woody stems, wooly leaves and spikes of bluish purple flowers. Cultivars can vary in size flower and leaf color.
Sage grows about two feet tall. It prefers a sunny location in well-drained soil. It is very drought tolerant, and does not like to sit in water. Nor does it like extreme heat. Pruning after flowering helps keep the plant from becoming leggy.
Sage can be grow from seed or root cuttings. Actually it will set down its own roots once the stem touches the ground. But the best way is to find small starter plants in spring either in the garden or the nursery. I find many starter plants sprouting up from the larger shrubs.
Salvia officinalis has had many uses since ancient times for warding off evil, increasing women’s fertility, and more. To the ancient civilizations, like the Romans, sage was held sacred and thought to give one immortality and increase mental capacity.
The plant had a high reputation throughout the Middle Ages as well. It was supposed to ward off the plague, and was cultivated in monastery gardens.
The Chinese were said to trade green tea for sage.
American Indians used it for medicinal purposes as it cured skin sores. It was also used to banish evil spirits. Many Native American tribes considered sage as a purifying herb, and it was commonly used in ceremonial rituals.
Early American settlers, in the 1800’s, used sage to cure warts, and as an insect repellent.
It was believed that sage grew robustly in gardens where the household was ruled by a woman. My sage has been growing for 7 years, and it continues to root and increase itself throughout the garden.
In Britain, sage is listed as one of the essential herbs. It has a savory, musky, slightly peppery flavor. It is also found in many European dishes, especially Italian, Balkan and Middle Eastern.
Sage’s aroma makes it a great dried or fresh spice for meat dishes, especially poultry, seafood, sausages and some game. Of course it is used in stuffing, soups and stews and as a meat rub. Leaves of the plant are the most commonly used part of the plant.
Sage leaves have been used as a tonic for many ailments:
- Colds, fevers, coughs, flu, sore throats
- Memory enhancement and recall
- Mild sedative
- Anti-inflammatory and antihistamine
- Hot flashes
- Anti-dandruff and hair treatment
- Heartburn and indigestion
- Insect bites, rashes and skin conditions
- Decreasing plasma glucose in diabetes 2
In a double blind study, sage was found to be effective in managing mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
A cold infusion has also been used as a facial astringent and aftershave.
Sage is considered a safe herb if consumed in moderate amounts. Strong mixtures of sage should be avoided by pregnant women.
Common sage is grown in parts of Europe for its essential oil. But sage is widely used and valued as an ornamental in gardens, especially herb gardens. Sage attracts bees so it is a wonderful plant to have near a veg garden. It is also great in potpourri because of its wonderful scent.
Once established it will grow like a low ground cover, particularly in dry beds. It is hardy to zone 5 so it will survive my wet cold winter in my beds that are well draining. But in winter it seems to do best when covered by insulating snow.
Language of Flowers
In the Language of Flowers sage stands for Wisdom, Long life and Good health. What a fabulous plant to grow in your garden.
“Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?” ~Old English proverb
Check out other posts in the series, Simply the Best-Herbs:
Next up on the blog: Later this week will be GBBD, and I have no idea what blooms may be left in the garden to show off. It may just be a memory post. Then Monday I will be reviewing another great Garden Book about native plants.
I wrote a guest post over at Vision and Verb. I hope you will visit this wonderful website of women writers.
I am linking in with [email protected]Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.
I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my next post on the 12th.
I am also joining in I Heart Macro with [email protected]Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.
Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.
All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013. Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.
58 Replies to “Simply The Best Herbs-November”
Wisdom, long life, and good health…it just has to be Sage! I also love the “lambs ear” look of many of the types of leaves. I’ve had brilliant good luck with Sages, but my favorite is still the variety with the light blue spikes, it’s so prolific in my garden beds. Donna, do you see any reason we can’t just dry out the leaves and use them in cooking? Like in T-day stuffing coming up?
Glad you are a sage fan Susie! You can use culinary sage right out of the garden fresh or dry the leaves. I will be on T-day.
O I love my herbs and love that you know so much about each of them. Although sage is traditionally used in stuffing I prefer thyme for that. What I use my sage for is sage butter which is amazing with pasta and pizza! The scent of it sizzling on the pan, is to die for!! Gorgeous post Donna, big wave from Ireland:~))
Both sound wonderful. I also add thyme to my stuffing Catherine. And I love the idea of the sage butter that I will definitely try. Hugs to you! :))
Highlighting sage around the time of Thanksgiving is very appropriate. But I didn’t realize sage was used for so many things. I loved best the saying that sage would grow well in a household ruled by a woman! ha! I sometimes wonder where these little sayings come from!
I often wonder it too Holley. But I think it is so true don’t you!! We are the keepers and users of the herbs.
I didn’t realize sage has so many medicinal uses. A good informative article as usual Donna.
Thanks so much Judith. I do so enjoy learning and then imparting these tasty tidbits.
I love the smell of sage, and it is so good in stuffing! It’s interesting that it attracts bees. Is it the smell of it, or the blooms that are attractive? That is so interesting that it helps with Alzheimer’s disease. I wonder how widespread that knowledge is..
I think Indie the bees are attracted to the flowers. I do think the knowledge is widespread amongst the researchers. I have read several articles about some of the herbs they are researching as a cure or help to mitigate the symptoms of the disease.
A lovely plant, it actually needs summer water in my very free draining soil. The leaves are sometimes battered and deep fried; I use the fresh leaves to make burro e salvia – a simple sauce for pasta that just has finely chopped sage mixed with melted butter and used to dress spaghetti, add a little parmesan and you have the perfect lunch.
Christina this sounds amazing and something I will be trying…I love these posts because I learn so much more about my favorite herbs and yummy ways to use them I had not considered. Thank you!!
I am not a grower of Herbs, but Sage can not only help with old age, it actually prevents it, thats for me.
Then you tell us it grows where women rule the roost, well, fair enough, what’s new.
You always make me laugh Alistair!! Indeed what’s new 🙂 I am looking for more ways to use sage!
Sage is one of those overlooked workhorses in my garden, so beautifully grey tinged. In the winter I try to remember to plant more of it in the spring, but when that season rolls in, it’s all the colorful plants that get remembered.
Must write it down.
Great to hear you love it as well Jen. Enjoy planting more in spring!!
Oh, I did not know all this. Thank you for sharing! So much to learn about our world and blogging is a wonderful teacher. 🙂
Thanks Gail. Blogging is a great teacher indeed. Glad you enjoyed the post.
Judy is very serious about her turkey stuffing, and I know she uses dried sage. I wonder if fresh would be all that different? I don’t grow sage, but perhaps I’ll try one plant in my herb garden next spring. Great post!
I use fresh sage and it is a bit different and delicious. You would not be disappointed planting a sage plant in your herb garden. Glad you liked the post Jason!
I love sage, we brought some in, hoping it will last in the house to replant in the spring, I guess we’ll see what happens. Thanks for sharing the love up-close with I Heart Macro:-)
Laura I bring in a small volunteer indoors every winter and let it grow under the lights downstairs. I am even using some of it tonight. Hope your plant does well for you.
A lovely post again Donna! I replaced my sage bush this summer… it was struggling, and was rather old and woody anyway. The new one, also Salvia officinalis, is called “Mittenwald” (a beautiful town in the German Alps!) and has small leaves and a more delicate flavour. I like sage butter on pasta or with fresh white asparagus in spring.
Oh what a great name and it sounds like a wonderful plant. I will have to definitely make some sage butter to try.
Sage is a new herb to my garden, I bought it this year to use in a special tequila-based cocktail. (From the Drunken Botanist) Can’t wait to see how it does through the winter and I’m sure it will get used during the holidays. Great post!
Wow I had not heard it used in a cocktail…how interesting. It should overwinter fine for you.
I enjoyed reading all of the uses of sage. I usually only think of it as it is used in the Thanksgivig dressing! Although I did have a recipe where it is fried and used with baked butternut squash.
Oh Dorothy that sounds yummy. Fried sage in squash! Glad you really enjoyed the post!!
Do you know if the variegated forms of culinary sage work as well for cooking?
That’s a great question Kathy. I have not tried it but I would imagine it would be fine as long as it has the same great fragrance of the leaves.
Wow i specifically love that first frosted photo, maybe because i haven’t seen a frosted plant in person.
Your country is having thanksgiving while we are in a state of depression, mourning, sickness, deprivation, calamity. I hope these will all pass with spirits as a people still intact, and we can gather the bits and pieces of ourselves and start again! Thanks for all your help and prayers.
Thanks Andrea. I was so worried about you when I first saw the news but thought you were not in that area (or hoped you were not). The extreme weather and natural disasters your country has been enduring of late makes me so heart sick. I am continuing to send prayers for healing and recovery every day for you and the people of the Philippines. I think many Americans will be doing the same on our Thanksgiving as it is a time of prayer and hope.
Hi Donna, Thanks for sharing information about sage. I do grow sage; I’m on my third plant (in 23 years). They are hardy here, but not extremely long lived. You are great at sharing a wealth of information about plants, and I enjoy your blog very much.
I am surprised that my sage has been growing now for about 7 years and it continues to spread. Thank you Beth for your kind comment about my blog. I do so enjoy yours as well!!
Interesting! I didn’t know it had all those medicinal uses. The little garden where you have it placed in front of the (Birch?) tree is so pretty!
That tree was actually a red beech which did not make it so we now have a redbud there. it is a stick right now but we hope it will grow quickly.
It’s wonderful sage will grow and survive your zone. I love sage. The pretty blue flowers are always welcomed here.
I was so happy when I learned that sage grew in my zone and even in partial shade. I have been growing it for about 20 years.
Have you ever used any of the common herbs you grow medicinally? I have attended talks by Native Americans that have and it is interesting watching them make up these concoctions. They learned some of what works or is safe to consume by watching animals.
I remember you saying you had attended some talks. I do use some herbs medicinally with the oversight of my acupuncturist.
You have to put sage in the turkey stuffing!
I agree Karen…stuffing at Thanksgiving would not be the same without the sage 🙂
Great post! I don’t use it a lot, but enjoy it with poultry.
Bettyl thanks so much! I agree sage is great with poultry.
Lots to learn… I have 2 May Night salvia and 2 native salvia. The May Night keep blooming if I cut the old flowers, but the native bloom once. I wondered why… Michelle
Have you grown the culinary sage? It is a great herb to grow and use and would go nicely with the other salvias even if it is not native.
Sage is high on my list for my herby area once I get it established. Do you ever grow the purple leaf version? The taste isn’t as strong but it is a really pretty plant.
How wonderful Janet. Looking forward to your herb garden. I have not grown the purple sage as it is right on the edge of my hardiness zone. Perhaps if I find a spot that is well protected but even then it may be iffy.
Salvias are my favourite plant family and it’s interesting to read all about S. Officanalis here Donna – pretty flowers indeed- and leaves – especially with your frosting. Prone to mildew and leaf hoppers so invariably have to hack it back. p.s I wonder if you grow S. apiana which as the name suggests is even more attractive to bees?
I wish I could grow S. apiana in my herb garden, but it is not hardy. I do grow a small plant in a pot and bring it in during winter, but it does not flower for me 🙁
I am learning so much from your herb series. Sage is a must have for me. It looks like every single thing we plant will need a raised bed as our drainage is not good. I was thinking of having herbs in pots by the back door but sage seems to like to spread. Do you think it will flourish if confined to a pot?
The white sage I have in a pot does not grow a great deal but I think I need to move it to a bigger pot. It does like to spread. So happy to hear you are enjoying the series.
What a versatile herb … I should use it more often in cooking. Informative post, thank you.
So glad you enjoyed it Loredana…such an aromatic herb to use in cooking.
busy writing my Dozen for Diana post for tomorrow, and coming late to your post, having kept it waiting to enjoy.
Sage is one of the herbs I love. (Especially pineapple sage ;~)
I have not tried growing pineapple sage as it is more tropical and not hardy here, but perhaps I can keep one in a pot and bring it in during winter or grow it as an annual…glad you enjoyed this post about one of your a favorite herbs.
I love the flavour of sage, but I’ve never tried growing any for culinary use. I should put that on my list for next year…. 🙂
Sheryl it is a great plant with interesting foliage and lovely flowers….glad you enjoyed the profile.
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