Growing sage in your herb garden means that you should also know how to preserve and use it.
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Sage has a long and varied history as a culinary herb and medicinal plant.
Native to the Mediterranean region, it was revered by Ancient Romans for its healing qualities. Later, the French grew large amounts of sage for tea.
Today, sage is considered a classic ingredient in holiday stuffing and other rich dishes.
Growing, Harvesting, Preserving, and Using Sage
Sage is an attractive perennial in USDA zones 5 to 8. It doesn’t like the extreme heat of warmer regions and won’t stand up to the intense cold of northern areas.
This herb is a member of the mint family, along with basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary and many others.
Like other members of this family, it prefers full sun and light well-drained soil. It doesn’t do well in heavy clay soils that hold excess water. Loose soil, raised garden beds or containers are ideal for growing sage.
With its soft, greyish green leaves, this is a nice looking plant.
It doesn’t always play nicely with others, however. Sage is antagonistic to cucumbers; so don’t plant them too close together. Its strong flavor can have an adverse affect on the fruit.
The best time to harvest is early in the morning just after the dew has dried.
Two or three times during the growing season, harvest bunches of leaves. As sage is a perennial, it will take over the garden without regular pruning.
Use a pair of very sharp scissors and snip off only the youngest, tenderest leaves. If you want to dry them for later use, leave an inch of stem so that they can be tied together. Wash well and dry before using.
Storing and Using Sage
Sage is best used fresh, but it can be dried or frozen.
Chop washed leaves and freeze in ice cube trays with water or oil, or freeze them whole and store in a airtight container.
It can also infuse butter, vinegar, honey or salt. Infused into salt, it makes a wonderful meat rub.
Sage is best known for its place at the holiday table where its distinctive flavor sets the stage for classic stuffing recipes. For many home cooks, its place in the kitchen ends there. So lets take a look at how this often under-utilized herb can be enjoyed all year long…
This herb pairs beautifully with foods high in fat and oil.
It is often used to make sausage and other meats for this reason. It is also perfect with buttery pasta dishes.
For a super easy and delicious meal, sauté fresh leaves in butter and toss with penne pasta, sliced grilled sausage and some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Fresh sage sautéed in a browned butter sauce is also wonderful with delicate butternut squash ravioli.