When I think of sage, I automatically think of Thanksgiving dinner. There’s always cornbread dressing with sage, sausage, and apples at my house; my turkey is rubbed inside and out with sage; I also burn it as incense frequently in the fall, so just the smell of sage reminds me of harvest time, pumpkin carving, Halloween, and the upcoming winter.
Funny thing is, sage grows all season long in my area. It’s one of the first herbs that I can harvest and one of the last. I just cut some today and it’s still going strong. We’ve had two overnight frosts so far this year and it hasn’t hurt it one bit as evidenced in the photo with the maple leaves that have already turned and fallen onto the ground this October.
Drying sage is so easy too. I wash it after I harvest it, rubber band a bunch together then hang it upside-down from a push pin. About 7-10 days later, I can seal it up in a container to use whole, grind it in my mortar and pestle, or simply rub the leaves between my hands to make rubbed sage. Organic ground sage and organic rubbed sage runs about $4-6 for an ounce to two ounces. Add the fact that sage is a perennial in zone 5 (where I live) I bought a few live plants for under $10. Talk about cost-savings! Theses plants will last me forever given that I pay some attention to their water needs and that I’ve planted them in the a spot they’ll prosper.
Speaking of which…sage loves sunny to mostly-sunny areas in your yard. It tolerates some drought as it prefers well-drained soil, but you can’t let it get too dry. I’ve planted it next to my rosemary that requires similar conditions and they’ve done great together. Sage is an offshoot of the mint family, so it’s pretty sturdy (even if your son accidentally runs through it in the garden or your cats decide to lie down on it), but it doesn’t have the “take over the garden” aspect that mint does.
Sage spreads through its root system, so when I planted it, I gave it about one foot in either direction to grow out. Once your sage gets a little too crowded, it easily sets foot in another area by simply dividing it and replanting. I recommend resting the sage plant you’ve divided off and replanted for a season before you harvest it. This will allow the root system to establish itself, store energy for a winter, and then have plenty of energy stored for the following season producing a wonderful new sage plant. Also, I would recommend not dividing a plant that is less than three years-old.
I harvest only the leaves for consumption, but everything on this plant is edible. When I do harvest the plant for other purposes, I leave as much root in the ground to regrow and I use the woody stems for incense once they’ve dried thoroughly (takes about one month). However, you can harvest the whole plants, roots and all, dry it and use for various purposes like teas, tinctures, and salves.
Historically, sage has been used medicinally in a tea for relief from diarrhea, indigestion, and anxiety. More holistic traditions have used sage for menstruation maladies like cramps, irregular periods, and to help the symptoms of menopause. That being said it is advised by most holistic practitioners not to consume large amounts of sage during pregnancy because it contains estrogen. Always seek a medical professional (CMA disclosure).
Sage is a great herb to grow in the garden for teas, incense, medicinal purposes or simply to dry and hang due to its wonderful fragrance when dried. I can’t tell you how much I love this smell. Once you’re familiar with it, you’ll want to savor the scent and you’ll never forget it.
Many artsy-craftsy people make sage wreaths similar to those cinnamon wreaths you find in stores at Christmas just because the smell is so wonderful. I recommend growing it in your kitchen herb garden along with your other favorite go-to herbs, even if you’re like me and tend to use it only in the fall. Trust me, you’ll have amassed enough of a quantity by then to last you well after the holidays.