Web Site Name

Barbara Pleasant: Garden Sage

 
barbecue brush make from herbs
Stems of garden sage add structure to a bundle of herbs that will be used as a barbecue brush.

The elliptical casing that holds the base of a sage flower is edible when greenish and tender, but may carry too much sage flavor for raw recipes.

Sage is such a trustworthy plant that I included it in a dozen planting plans for newbie gardeners in my book, Starter Vegetable Gardens.

After growing it in six different gardens in three different states, garden sage has never failed to prosper for me. The first sage plant I ever grew I started from a packet of seeds labeled Salvia officinalis, and 30 years later I’m back to the straight species again. Rescued from an abandoned garden, my current grandma plant is gnarly with age, but she blooms like a teenager. She’s also accommodating when it comes to the one thing you should do to grow garden sage, which is to propagate at least one branch each year using the layering method.

 

It’s really low tech. Select an outer branch that can be bent over and pinned to the soil. Pinch off all leaves except for a nice tuft at the tip, and dig a 2-inch deep trench in which to bury the stem. Distress the stem a bit before buying it by scratching it with your fingernail, or making a shallow cut. Bury the stem and place a rock over it to keep it in place, and then forget about it. First thing next spring, sever the rooted branch from the parent plant, and replant it in a fresh spot.

My new little video on pruning back garden sage in spring, while layering a stem for propagation purposes.
Using Sage Flowers

Spikes of blue sage blossoms take center stage in the late spring garden, glowingly framed by sage’s soft gray-green foliage. Sage flowers are as edible as the leaves, though I had to do some out-on-the-deck research to discover the details. For example, each tubular blue blossom is held by a papery bract. Do you eat the bract and the blossom? And what about the gossamer little stamens, or the bases of the petals, which sometimes taste bitter in other edible flowers?


To some extent, how you groom sage flowers depends on what you want to do with them. The most deliciously decadent way to eat sage blossoms is to dip them in a batter and fry until crispy, in which case leaving the bracts intact gives the little morsels much-needed structure. But the bracts taste pretty strong raw, so I suggest pinching them off when preparing sage blossoms for salads, cheese or butter spreads, or general garnishing. Hold the upper hood and lower lip of a blossom closed with one hand, and pinch off the bract and base with the other. Your fingers will smell of sage for hours.

I practiced with well-rinsed branches, so the groomed blossoms could go straight into the fridge (chilling quickly perks up floppy petals). Make no mistake: sage flowers are a big color, big flavor ingredient when eaten raw. They pack a warming punch that lingers on the palate, so expect much more than a pretty plate. Speaking of plate, pairing blue sage blossoms with orange foods like oranges, carrots, or winter squash is always creates memorable special effects. 


The red blossoms of pineapple sage are edible, too, and quite popular for tossing into pound cake or cornbread. In either blue or red, sage flowers are ultra-cool floated into little jars of sage jelly. 

Salvia officinalis
Garden sage (Salvia officinalis)

Mature sage plants bloom for a long

time because new blossoms quickly
replace older ones on the same
flowering spike.

More Pleasant Reading

on Sage

 

In Mother Earth News:

 

Is Golden Sage Edible?

 

Kitchen Herbs: Sage

groomed sage flowers
Salad-worthy blossoms of garden sage (Salvia officianlis)
variegated garden sage

Pretty 'Icterina' sage has good

flavor and looks beautiful on the

plate. Variegated sages are

slightly less cold hardy than

green-leafed strains of Salvia

officinalis.