Cooking and medicinal herb: Sage

sage plant

This is our garden sage plant in February.  Granted, we’ve had a fairly mild winter in the Pacific Northwest, but this just goes to show that garden sage can provide edible herbs into the winter months during mild years even without protection from the elements.  If we do have a big freeze it will die back temporarily if it’s not covered, but always comes back when the temperature warms up.

To harvest, I cut off the ends and put them in the food dryer.  When they’re dry I strip the leaves right off the woody stems and put into glass jars with tight fitting lids for storage.  When cooking I open a jar, pour out a palm full of sage leaves, and scrunch the dried leaves into tiny pieces right into whatever I’m making.  I usually crumple dried sage into ground turkey and then form patties or meatballs to freeze and use as needed.  I also scrunch dried sage into veggies on the stovetop.

You’ll need to keep cutting off the ends of your garden sage plant or else it turns into a big woody monster instead of a lush green herb bush.   My garden sage is next to our driveway/sidewalk so I can maintain it easy, plus it’s an attractive evergreen plant.  The best time to cut is right after it flowers, but any time it starts looking sad I’ve whacked it and it’s still in good shape.

Pouring hot water over a fresh sage sprig makes an invigorating and healthy cup of tea as well, but you have to get used to its muskier flavor.  The Latin name for Sage means “to rescue or to heal” and has been used through antiquity for respiratory infections, congestion, cough, sore throats, and is said to help the liver.  Some women say it also helps with menopausal symptoms.   It’s safe to use in cooking, but it should be avoided in therapeutic doses during pregnancy because it’s a uterine stimulant, and it can decrease milk production so shouldn’t be used by nursing moms.

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