Photo by Dawn Combs
This time of year, sage becomes popular in the kitchen, though we would all be “sage” to respect its place in our lives throughout the year.
One of the last herbs I brought in from the garden this year was the sage. It will stay nice in our Midwestern winters well past the first few frosts, but it needs to be gathered before the really hard freeze to come. I grow a couple kinds of sage around our farm including clary sage (Salvia sclarea) and, of course, common garden sage (Salvia officinalis).
The sage plants in our garden plots are nearing their third year, so they are due to be replenished. We keep them trimmed due to constant harvest, but they will begin to get woody and wither. In the spring, I’ll make cuttings during the rainy season and stick them in right next to the current plants. The shade from their parents will allow them protection as they take root and grow.
A Storied Past
Sage has been valued medicinally for as long as we’ve had the written word and beyond. There are many old proverbs, some suggesting that there is never a reason for a man to perish from an illness as long as he has sage grow; or that as the home business goes, so grows the sage. Our farm business at Mockingbird Meadows is beginning to grow nicely and we have a very large sage bush in our unheated greenhouse that blooms all year long. Here’s hoping that old adage is true!
Photo by Dawn Combs
Medicine in Our Food
We will gather some fresh sage from the greenhouse on Thanksgiving morning to be used in our dressing. A little bit of this herb goes a long way, so it’s important to be careful to add only small amounts to your cooking to avoid overpowering other flavors. The addition of sage to our holiday meals helps us to digest the particularly rich food that makes up these feasts. The plants that have grown all summer long will be drying on screens in front of the fire for use in farm products and our personal apothecary.
Sage has been used as a general tonic and virtual panacea for as far back as Pliny and Dioscorides. It has a special affinity for the mouth and throat and is featured prominently in cold and flu remedies.
As a tea, sage is made with an infusion: Simply pour one cup boiling water over two to three teaspoons sage and allow it to sit in a covered vessel for 10 to 15 minutes. The resulting tea was traditionally drank first thing in the morning for digestion, flu prevention and even pain in the joints. It is a refrigerant, helping to cool the body, so it is helpful to relieve both fever and menopausal hot flash. Recent research has supported the use of sage for memory. There is even evidence that sage is very helpful for the agitation that accompanies Alzheimer’s.
We have a brutal storm moving in this afternoon and I can hear the wind howling outside. I’m off to the greenhouse to pick a handful of sage. I think a warm cup is just the thing for a morning like this.