Newest Review: ... is a good source of Vitamin A, making it a pretty decent antioxidant as well. Sage is very easy to grow and look after, and mine is thrivi... more
You'd be wise to grow sage.
Member Name: Stewwydablue
Advantages: Easy to grow
Disadvantages: Not everyone likes the taste
It's late winter, and while most things in my garden are dead, I'm still picking leaves from my sage plants to use in the kitchen. Not bad for a plant that prefers a middle eastern / Mediterranean climate! It's a very easy plant to grow, which makes itself useful when you're cooking too. Let me tell you a bit more about sage, or to use its Latin name, saliva officinalis.
A well known plant to the Romans and ancient Greeks, this is where it gets its name from and the fact that "sage" means knowledge or wisdom is a direct result of the belief in ancient times that this plant has brain enhancing powers. The prefix "salvia" from its Latin name means "to heal", as it was also recognised that the plant has antiseptic, antibacterial and digestive qualities. So, it's not just tasty as a herb, it's also good for you.
Growing your own
It really is very easy to grow sage from seed or a cutting, and before long you'll have a compact bush teeming with leaves just begging to be plucked. To grow from seed, place them in gritty compost on a warm sunny windowsill and keep the soil moist but not soaking - you should see them sprout in about a fortnight. When the seedlings have two sets of true leaves, they can be pricked out and moved into bigger individual pots. Harden them off before leaving outside in their final growing position. Like a lot of herbs, they like a sunny position and good drainage for their roots so I add a lot of sharp sand to my container before planting out any new sage plants. Sage is a perennial plant, but you must keep plucking the leaves to encourage new growth - otherwise the plant will become quite twiggy, like a small tree.
It's also easy to propagate new plants by layering them onto the soil (just like strawberry runners), allow them to develop their own root system and then cut free from the "mother" plant. This way you'll get a good few free plants a year from the one bush and won't have to buy seeds or new plants.
I cut off any flowers that appear in early summer / late spring - the presence of flowers dulls the taste of the leaves. Sage dries very easily and will store in a dark jar for months; all the while the flavour intensifies. I cut sprigs off the plant, remove any poorly looking leaves, shake them off to get rid of any creepy crawlies that may be hiding amongst the leaves, then hang up in a dim corner of my kitchen for about a week. After this week, the leaves have kept most of their colour and are very crispy, so I then scrunch all the dried leaves off into a plastic storage container, taking care not to get any bits of twig in there too. The scrunching action breaks up the leaves into small pieces which makes it easier to add the dried herb to recipes in the form of measured teaspoons.
Sage can also be chopped and frozen in olive oil in an ice cube tray, or stored in a bottle of oil. Storing the leaves in oil will also flavour the oil which is good for tasty salad dressings.
Cooking with sage
Sage works well with most meats and in my kitchen is a very good utility herb; there aren't many soups and stews and roasts that don't get sage added to them. It can be added to meals as fresh chopped leaves or dried powder, depending on what you prefer. For example, I use fresh chopped leaves in a herb butter when roasting turkey or chicken, and tend to use my dried store of sage when making soups and stews. For those with a taste for offal, it works very well with liver.
Don't spend good money on buying sage from a supermarket every time you need it for a recipe - grow a plant in a small container outside your back door and you'll have a plant that lasts for years and loves to be picked - the more you pick, the more it encourages fresh growth and keeps the plant manageable. A very versatile herb, it's with no doubt that it deserves the full five stars.
Summary: A very useful, versatile plant