Sage is a perennial herb and a member of the Labiat, found naturally on dry, calcareous hills in southern Europe and northern Africa.
History of Sage
In ancient times, sage was one of the most highly esteemed of all the herbs because of its reputed health-ensuring properties. The name sage, meaning wisdom, was reputed to strengthen the memory. Some today even consider there to be grounds for believing that those who eat the plant will be wise.
Description of Sage
The almost woody stems rise usually 15 to 18 inches high, but it is not uncommon for them to reach higher. The leaves are oblong, pale green, finely toothed, lance-shaped, wrinkled and rough.
The usually bluish-lilac, sometimes pink or white, flowers form loose terminal spikes or clusters. Over 7,000 of the small globular, almost black seeds are required to weigh an ounce. A sage seed can retain its vitality for about three years.
Sage is found naturally, but it is also grown and cultivated by most societies in Europe and America. It is grown commercially and for private gardens. It is strong herb, enough to survive moderate winters.
Here are a few guidelines to aid you in the growing of sage.
- Sage does best upon mellow well-drained soil of moderate fertility.
- For cultivation on a large scale the soil should be plowed deeply and allowed to remain in the rough furrows during the winter, so as to be broken up as much as possible by the frost.
- Usually market gardeners prefer to grow sage as a second crop. They therefore raise the plants in nursery beds
- Seed is sown in the very early spring.
- Seed is sown in drills at the rate of two seeds to the inch and covered about 1/4 inch deep and in rows about 15 inches apart.
- From the start, the seedlings are kept clean cultivated and are encouraged to grow stocky.
- By late May or early June, the first sowings of summer vegetables will have been picked and the ground ready for the sage. The ground is then put in good condition and the sage seedlings transplanted six or eight inches apart usually.
- Clean cultivation is maintained until the sage has possession. If the plants are not thinned but are allowed to crowd, the lower leaves will turn yellow and drop off.
- This last cutting may continue well into November without serious loss of lower leaves.
Cooking with Sage
Sage is one of the most aromatic culinary herbs and, as such, has a long history of being in perfumes and perfumed soaps. An oil is distilled from the sage with water that is greenish-yellow in color and then used in perfumes.
Sage has its importance in the kitchen as well:
- Because of its strong aroma, sage is used for seasoning dressings.
- Sage is one of the most important flavoring ingredients in certain kinds of sausage.
- Sage, because of its aroma, is used to disguise the aroma of strong meats, such as pork, goose and duck.
- Sage is also very important in the flavoring of different types of cheese.
Kains, M.G. (1912). Culinary Herbs: Their Cultivation, Harvesting, Curing and Uses. Retrieved April 3, 2008, from the Project Gutenberg Web site: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21414/21414-h/21414-h.htm#Page_59.