Garden Sage: The Wise and Wonderful Herb

Garden Sage: The Wise and Wonderful Herb
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sageThe old English word "sage" means a wise man, and this term comes from the belief that sage was thought to impart wisdom and improve one's memory. I can't vouch for my memory improving since planting sage, but I certainly feel wise for buying it that first summer I started growing herbs.

My first sage plant cost $1.50 and the roots were shooting out bottom of the pot. I was so excited to start my herb garden that I didn't know what I would use it for, but I liked the way it looked. Since then I have moved my sage three times and no doubt abused the poor thing, but it flourishes. For first time herb growers it's an excellent choice. Sage thrives in hot dry soil, and can be harvested continuously until the first hard frost. The variety I have is the common Garden Sage or Salvia Officinalis.

Sage makes a great herb vinegar combined with thyme and oregano. I snip it into cooked green beans and sauté it with garlic and olive oil. Fried sage is a neat little garnish and treat. Heat oil as you would for French Fries. Slip single leaves into the hot oil for a few seconds; remove and drain. You can use the fried sage for garnish or salad toppings. Sage has a reputation of being very strong, but I find it a wonderful accent to vegetables and meats. I use only a few leaves at a time and have been pleased with the results.

Sage needs fairly dry soil and full sun to thrive. Resist the urge to water it between rains; it simply does not need extra waterings. Sage does tend to become woody and will benefit from cutting back to 6 or 8 inches from the ground. I do this in the spring or early summer. It will grow back for another harvest. We are discussing the common Garden Sage or Salvia Officinalis. There are many variations of sage available and most of those are not as hardy. Feel free to substitute and experiment with other sages in the recipes provided.

Havesting and Preserving

Sage can be frozen, dried or used fresh. To freeze simply rinse and pat dry the whole leaves and place in resealable freezer bags. There is no need to thaw before using. For drying, hang the stalks upside down in a dry, dark place and crumble into jars when completely dry. I prefer fresh or frozen sage; the taste is quite a bit different than the dried.

Sage brings to mind turkey stuffing for most people, and after that they can't really think of many uses for it. I was the same way until I bought my first garden sage plant. The fresh leaves stay nice well into the cold weather, and they can be frozen whole for use later as well. A fresh leaf or two of sage is wonderful in apple dishes, in green beans, with pork and poultry plus stews and soups. One plant is plenty for a family!

Try making this simple glaze for turkey, ham or pork roast.

Sage Molasses Glaze

1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup red onion, minced
5 or 6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt

Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl until combined. Use to glaze boneless or bone-in turkey breasts, roasting chicken, Cornish hens or other poultry. Brush on the inside and outside before roasting, then glaze 1/2 way through cooking. You may need to pour a little bit of water in the bottom of the roasting pan to avoid the glaze dripping and scorching. You can also try on pork roasts or hams.

Garlic Sage Butter

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
2 large minced garlic cloves
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix all together or process quickly in a food processor. Chill and serve with rolls or use it on vegetables such as green beans, brussel sprouts, cabbage or other green vegetables.

Using Fresh Sage For the Holidays

You can garnish holiday meat or vegetable platters with fresh sage leaves from the garden or market. The red of cranberries contrasts beautifully to the green sage leaves. Place both around the holiday meat platter for an elegant presentation.

A Living Herb Centerpiece Wreath: Use sage and other herbs that may still be in the garden such as thyme to make a fresh wreath centerpiece. You may lay it flat on the table with a pillar candle in the middle or a hurricane lamp.

You'll need:

wreath form
sphagnum moss
floral oasis
fresh herbs: thyme, lavender, rosemary, and sage
floral wire

Line the wreath form with the moss. Cut the oasis to fit inside the wreath form. Soak the oasis so it holds the water, then gently press it into the form. At this point you can take fresh herb springs and make small "bouquets" wrapping the floral wire around the stems, then make a hole in the oasis and insert the sprigs. OR take small potted herbs and insert the pots into the oasis, evenly around the form. Then fill in around the sprigs or pots with moss, then into the moss you can set ornaments, pinecones or other natural elements. Since the wreath is sitting as a centerpiece it's easier to add to it since it won't be hanging. Mist the wreath occasionally to help it last longer.


Stuffing Herb Blend

This is a stuffing blend using fresh herbs.

6 tablespoons sage
1 tablespoon thyme
3 tablespoons sweet marjoram
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley

Combine together by chopping or mincing. Keep up to one week in the refrigerator. Use to season stuffing.

Roasted New Potatoes with Shallots and Sage

From Bon Appétit, November 1997

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter or margarine
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
4 pounds medium-size red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed, quartered
1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
16 shallots, peeled, halved lengthwise

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook butter and fresh sage in small saucepan over medium-heat until butter simmers and is well flavored with sage, about 4 minutes. Toss potatoes with dried sage and 2 tablespoons sage butter in bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer potatoes to 2 baking sheets. Bake 20 minutes. Toss shallots in same bowl with 1 tablespoon sage butter. Season with salt and pepper. Divide shallots between baking sheets. Roast until potatoes and shallots are tender and golden, turning occasionally, about 35 minutes longer. Transfer potatoes and shallots to large bowl. Add remaining sage butter; toss. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 8 Servings.

Herb and Shallot Butter

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 small shallot, minced
4 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoon minced fresh sage

Stir together butter, shallot and herbs. Use this for fresh vegetables, a steak topping or for bread. Makes 1/2 cup butter.

Garden Herb Medley

2 tablespoons oil
2 medium zucchini
1 sweet red pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
4 sage leaves, cut into thin strips
1 garlic clove; minced
Pepper to taste

Cut all of the vegetable into julienne strips. In a large skillet heat oil, saute zucchini and peppers until tender stirring occasionally, with lid on for about 5-8 minutes. Add garlic and sage; continue to cook until crisp tender. Do not allow garlic to scorch. 4-6 servings.

Sage and Bean Pasta

8 ounces penne pasta
3/4 cups diced carrots
1 1/2 cups canned green beans, or fresh that have been cooked
2 tablespoon oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
3-4 sage leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta as directed, adding carrots the last 5 minutes. Drain, and place in serving bowl to keep warm. Saute drained beans, garlic and sage in the olive oil. Cook until garlic is lightly colored and beans are hot. Add to pasta; season with salt and pepper and toss to mix. Makes 5 1/2 cups.

Beans, Tomatoes and Herbs

3 cups canned white beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon each chopped fresh thyme, sage, and rosemary
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (reserve 1 tablespoon)
4 plum tomatoes, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1/4 cup or less water

Rinse and drain beans. In a large skillet over medium low heat, place olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and chopped herbs (except for one tablespoon parsley). Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, then add tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and sauté until tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 more minutes. Gently stir in beans, adding water to moisten (4 to 5 tablespoons). Cover pan and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in sliced red onion. Drizzle with extra olive oil and top with remaining fresh parsley. Offer grated cheese at the table. Serves 4 to 6.

Carrots and Sage

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds baby carrots
1/4 medium onion, cut into long thin slivers
10 large fresh sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup canned chicken or vegetable broth

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the carrots, onion and sage about 10 minutes to brown the onion. Season with salt and pepper as the vegetables cook. Pour in the broth, lowing to a simmer. Cover and cook 15 minutes, or until carrots are tender when pierced with a knife. As they cook, watch carefully, adding a little water if necessary. Before serving, uncover and simmer off any liquid, leaving only enough to coat the carrots in a moist glaze. Taste for seasoning and serve hot.

Red Potatoes With Sage

3 tablespoons chopped sage
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds red potatoes
1 teaspoon herb salt or seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together oil, potatoes, salt, pepper, and 2 tbsp. of the sage. Mix until coated. Pour a small amount of water in a shallow pan and lay the potatoes on the pan, in the water, spreading them out evenly. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast potatoes for 15 minutes. Remove foil and roast 15 minutes more. Turn the potatoes over and roast 10 to 15 minutes more until crisp. Sprinkle with the remaining sage and serve.

Basil And Sage Butter

6 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup packed fresh sage
1/4 cup packed fresh basil
1 tsp. mashed anchovy, fillet

Combine the oil, butter, sage and basil in a small saucepan and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes at room temperature. Strain the butter and while still hot stir in the anchovy until it melts into the hot butter. You can use this to baste pork that has been grilled or chicken breasts. You can drizzle it over as a sauce or brush on.

Sage can be used in herbal tea blends as well, but if you are pregnant or nursing it should be avoided.

Delightful Herb Tea Blend

1/4 cup dried orange, pineapple or apple mint
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried sage
2 tablespoons lemon thyme or lemon balm, dried
1 tablespoon dried, calendula petals
3 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers

Combine the dried herbs together and store in an airtight container. Use 1 tsp. for a cup of tea.




About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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