Sage is a perennial plant gray-green to whitish in color with wrinkly oval leaves that can grow as high as 2 feet. Sage is lovely to look at because of its flowers that come in different colors (purple, red, white, or pink); these flowers attract pollinators too, including hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.
The common name for sage varies in different places; some call it common sage while others refer to it as garden sage. They also refer to sage as Dalmatian sage, golden sage, true sage, culinary sage, kitchen sage, and broadleaf sage.
Species: S. officinalis
Binomial Name: Salvia officinalis
- Salvia officinalis is Latin for slavere which means to be saved.
- Healers use sage in smudging for blessing and healing purposes, but the timing has to be perfect because the potency of sage wanes or grows depending on the time of the year.
- Despite its name, Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) is not a true sage.
- Practitioners of folk medicine use sage for curing colds, diarrhea, enteritis, venereal disease, excessive perspiration, snake bites, sore throats, toothaches, and cancer.
Sage Buying Guide
If you are buying to cook a specific meal that requires sage, buy in small quantities. Your options include freshly-cut sage, dried sage (whole leaf), and powdered sage.
If you have time for storing and preserving sage for future use, buy in bulk enough to have some leaves frozen and some leaves dried. If you have a space in your home for potted plants, buy a sage plant and grow it. This way, you have a steady supply of fresh sage leaves. Just make sure you bought edible sage which is used for cooking and eating, and not ornamental sage.
Here are some edible sage varieties:
- Common sage (Salvia officinalis) – The common sage is also known by different names such as culinary sage, broadleaf sage, or golden sage.
- Bee sage (Salvia apiana) – This is also known as white sage or sacred sage.
- Chia sage (Salvia columbariae) – This is also known as golden chia or desert chia. This sage is important for Native Americans and they call this pashiiy (Tongva) and it’epeš (Ventureño).
- Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) – This is also known as tangerine sage.
- Greek sage (Salvia fruticosa) – This sage is commonly used as herbal tea to treat sore throat.
Sage Production & Farming in Texas
Sage enjoys full sun and thrives in loamy, sandy, slightly acidic to neutral soil. Sage grows well where it is warm, dry, and if you expose the plant to sunlight with a temperature ranging from 5 to 26 degrees centigrade, somewhere with annual precipitation of 0.3 to 2.6 meters and a nitrogen-rich, clay loam soil with a pH of 4.2 to 8.3 (4.1-31). Most types of sage are suitable for growing year-round in the United States.
Commercial cultivation of sage relies on different methods – planting from seeds, planting division, by layering, or cuttings. Use vegetative propagation for the rapid harvesting of sage. Initial plantings can last between two to six years. After one year of planting, you can start harvesting before the sage blooms. If you are harvesting your plant for fresh sage leaves, make sure to pick the leaves that have the most vibrant color. Place harvested leaves and vegetative tops in a shady location to retain the color of the harvest. You can use an artificial source of heat if it is necessary. Use steam distillation to extract sage oil.
Very few types of sage are considered important enough to be commercially produced.
- Salvia fructicosa Mill. (formerly known as Salvia triloba L. f.). This sage accounts for more than 50% of the culinary sage imported into the United States.
- The Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulifolia Vahl.)
- The red sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza L.) is the sage that healers use to treat menstrual irregularities, uterine bleeding, abdominal pain, neurasthenia, insomnia, hepatitis, mastitis, and hives.
- The wild sage (Salvia lyrata L.) is native to the eastern part of the United States used to treat warts.
- The hallucinogenic sage is known as the sage of the diviners (Salvia divinorum), which is a sacred element in religious ceremonies.
Pests such as sweet potato whitefly, red and black flat mite, and greenhouse whitefly, as well as bacterial and fungal diseases, are a problem for sage plants. The use of chemical sprays is an option to kill pests and ensure the sage plants grow healthy.
- Boscalid – a fungicide that is nontoxic to terrestrial animals and is moderately toxic to aquatic animals.
- Chlorpyrifos – an organophosphate pesticide that kills insects and worms.
- Dimethoate – an insecticide used to kill mites and other insects.
- Indoxacarb – an oxadiazine pesticide that targets the lepidopteran larvae.
The bee sage is native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, while pineapple sage is to Mexico and Guatemala. Greek sage is native to southern Italy, Canary Islands, and North Africa.
Turkey is the top producer of sage. In Israel, there is an abundance of Greek sage.
Small quantities of dried sage or sage oil come in bottles. Vendors put freshly-cut sage in sealed plastic packs. In farmers markets and other small-scale commercial enterprises, fresh sage is sold still in its stem, tied in a bunch like a bouquet.
Sage’s signature is having a strong aroma mixed with its natural, earthy flavor. If the dish you are eating has this smell and taste, the sage is probably one of the ingredients used during cooking.
In the US, many Americans use sage during Thanksgiving because it helps make the turkey taste delicious, but be careful because if you are pregnant, do not eat food that has sage because it can cause uterine contractions.
Cut sage leaves retain their freshness for four to five more days wrapped in a paper towel placed inside a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator. To store cut sage for as long as three weeks, soak in oil. This way, you also get to have a flavored oil. Do this if you plan to use the stored sage for sautéing.
Freeze the leaves if you want to make sage last for one year. Wash the leaves thoroughly and wipe it dry before placing it inside freezer bags. Don’t forget that freezing intensifies the flavor and aroma of sage, so use accordingly.
For dried sage, store it in closed containers and place it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Use dried sage within six months of storage. Longer than that and the dried sage starts to lose its flavor.
Another way to store sage is by making preserves. Some of the sage preserves are sage honey, sage butter, sage salt, sage vinegar, sage syrup, and sage oil.
When cooking with sage, make sure to use it as indicated in the recipe. Use sage sparingly because it has a powerful smell that can overpower all the other flavors if used excessively in a dish. This quality of sage is also the reason why it is good to pair sage with other herbs and spices when cooking. It smells and tastes better if complimenting the flavors of the dish. The best use of sage is for flavoring fatty meats. It also goes well with dairy, which explains why there are sage butter and sage cheese. Lastly, you should know when it is best to put sage in the pot. Usually, it is when the cooking is nearly done. Overcooking the sage affects how sage impacts the food’s taste and flavor.
Eating sage allows the body to absorb vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, iron, vitamin B6, calcium, and manganese. Sage also contains magnesium, zinc, copper, and vitamins A, C, and E.
- Calcium: 1652.00mg
- Iron: 28.12mg
- Potassium: 1070mg
Sage also has caffeic acid (anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antiviral), chlorogenic acid (regulate blood pressure and weight loss), rosmarinic acid (helps in treating headaches and stomach problems), ellagic acid (removes toxins from the body), and rutin (strengthens the blood vessels).
Including sage in your regular diet has a positive impact on your physical health. Sage is good for improving memory and brain health. It helps lower bad LDL cholesterol and keeps certain types of cancer at bay. The benefits of sage also extend to other physical concerns like managing menopause, alleviating diarrhea, and improving bone health and skin condition.
When Are Sage in Season in Texas?
To find out when Sage are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.