When I think of sage (or smell it) I always think of turkey stuffing.Funny how smells can bring back all kinds of memories and when I was growing up, the sage bottle only came out on Thanksgiving. I’ve been growing sage for many years and we always have more that we can use just at Thanksgiving so I’ve learned to use it for other things too.
How to Grow Sage
If you live in gardening zones 5-8 sage will grow as a perennial. If you live where it gets really cold or really hot it will probably be an annual. However, we live in zone 9 along the Texas Gulf Coast and by planting the sage where it can get some shade and relief from the heat we can grow it as a perennial. So, that’s the thing about living where summers are long and hot, when plant descriptions say “full sun”, they don’t really mean South Texas full sun or Arizona full sun. That’s why it’s really important to know and understand your growing environment.
Sage likes well drained, sandy soil and doesn’t like a lot of water. Therefore, growing sage in pots is a good idea if you’re short on garden space.
Sage doesn’t propagate well from seeds so when you’re starting out, it’s best to just buy a small plant. You only need plant you can easily grow sage from cuttings. Cut about a 6″ stem, dip it in rooting hormone and put it in a pot of vermiculite. Once roots form, you can plant it in regular soil. This takes several weeks. Or you can do it the lazy way like I do, bend a large stem down to the ground and secure it about 4″ away from the tip. You can use gardening pins or a small rock. The sage will re-root itself over time.
Sage makes a good companion plant to carrots, cabbage, tomatoes and strawberries.
These worksheets are great for figuring out how much to plant to feed your family. Just fill in the form below and they’ll be emailed to you.
How to Harvest Sage
There really isn’t much to say about harvesting sage, it’s one herb that you can just harvest as you need it. Like other herbs, it’s best to harvest sage in the morning after the dew has dried.
If you want to do a big cutting, don’t take more than half the plant and don’t do it within two months of your first frost date. You can continue to harvest even after it flowers. The bees love sage flowers so I let the plant flower when it begins to.
Most people recommend replacing your sage every 3-4 years, but I’ve found that if I just do the lazy propagation every other year or so, my sage does just fine and I never really have to start over.
In the early spring, it’s good to prune the sage plant of some of it’s woody stems and new growth will take place with leaves just as flavorful as the previous year’s leaves.
How to Preserve Sage
Sage leaves have fuzz on them that makes dirt kind of cling to them. You’ll definitely want to wash the sage before preserving it. I like to use my salad spinner to do this. I put the sage in the basket and put the basket in the bowl and fill it with water. Gently swish the sage around then then let it sit and the dirt will settle to the bottom and larger debris will float on the top. After a about 5 minutes I take the basket out and pour out the water. I do this a few times until there’s no more dirt in the water then I spin the leaves.
Like other herbs, to preserve sage you can dehydrate it either by hanging it upside down in small bundles out of direct sunlight or by using a dehydrator. You can also freeze sage by chopping it up and putting it in ice cube trays with a little water. Sage can also be preserved in salt, the salt will extract the water from the sage. And in honey.
How to Use Sage
There are a lot of things you can do with sage that don’t include turkey dressing – but that is one of my favorite things. Sage is also a great addition to homemade sausage and any chicken or pork dish. But sage isn’t just for savory dishes. My family loved the sage cookies in The Herbal Cookery course I took last year. You can also make a gourmet brown butter sage to use as a topping for dishes or make a compound butter. Sage pairs nicely with biscuits and gravy. It pairs nicely with liver. I’m not a liver eater but these look really good! You can also make an herbal homemade soda.
Sage makes a great decongestant and can be infused into honey or added to a homemade cough syrup or throat spray. Traditionally sage has been used to make an oxymel for cold and flu season. It also can be infused into apple cider vinegar to make a face tonic to help with acne. This homemade deodorant spray also looks very promising as sage has antimicrobial properties.
Sage is one of those amazing herbs that are easy to grow, taste great and have medicinal properties.
Do you grow sage in your garden? Feel free to share tips for growing sage or using sage in the comments.