Sage: Broadleaf (Salvia officinalis)
Broadleaf sage (Salvia officinalis), also called culinary sage, produces aromatic foliage suitable for kitchen use. The attractive. broad, gray-green leaves remain lush throughout summer, and the plant forms attractive blue or lavender flowers in early summer. Sage grows reliably as a perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 to 8, but it can be enjoyed as an annual in other climates. The bushy plant complements both herb gardens and ornamental beds while providing a summer-long harvest of leaves.
Harvesting & Storage
Culinary & Medicinal
Nutrition & Health Benefits
Native Range: Mediterranean and northern Africa
Ease of Growing: Easy
Grown as: Perennial/Annual
Hardiness: Half Hardy. Sage is a hardy plant and can take cold temperatures but does not do very well in extremely cold climates.
Crops: Spring Transplant, Spring
Growing Season: Long
Growing Conditions: Cold, Cool, Warm, Hot. Sage originated in the Mediterranean and prefers mild winters and warm summers. It must have well drained soil in order to do well.
Outdoor Growing Temp: 55°F - 90°F
Min Outdoor Soil Temp: 45°F. Don't plant outdoors in Spring until danger of frost has passed and soil is at least 45˚F.
Start Indoors: Yes
Start Outdoors: Yes
Light: Full sun to part shade: min. 6 hours daily (Cold, Cool, Warm, Hot). This Mediterranean herb loves full sun, though in very hot climates it will also grow in partial shade.
Water: Medium. Sage is a very drought tolerant plant and is probably more often harmed by too much water, rather than too little. In very dry areas it will be more productive if watered occasionally.
Feeder: Light. Sage will grow in any well-drained soil, it doesn't need to be very fertile.
Suitability: Drought tolerant, Tolerates light frost, High heat
Small Gardens?: Yes
Containers?: Yes. Sage is an excellent candidate for container growing. Choose a pot that is a minimum of 8" deep and 8" in diameter. Make sure that there is at least one drainage hole in your container. Fill with potting soil and fertilize with compost. Water thoroughly and place in a sunny location. Water again when the soil gets dry.
Attracts beneficial insects?: Yes
Sowing Depth: Just below the surface.
Produces: broad, textured, downy green leaves and spikes of purple flowers.
USDA Grow Zone: 4-9
Garden Uses: Mix with perennials in borders or rock gardens. Excellent in herb or vegetable gardens.
Soil pH: 5.6-7.8, Ideal 6.0-6.5. Sage will grow in any well-drained garden soil, but prefers a light, slightly alkaline soil. If the soil will not drain then grow it in a raised bed.
Transplant after the last spring frost in light, well drained soil and full sun or partial shade. Space the plants 12-15" apart.
Direct sowing is not recommended, since the seeds take much longer to germinate in the cooler soil of spring; this significantly delays their growth. As a companion plant, sage repels the harmful cabbage butterfly and also protects carrots from insect pests. Avoid planting sage near cucumbers. Sage also grows well indoors or as a container plant.
Sage doesn’t like very cold weather and may not survive the winter outdoors in very cold climates. In which case it could be potted up and brought inside for winter use (or kept dormant in a cool garage).
Water Needs: Low. Sage is a very drought tolerant plant and is probably more often harmed by too much water, rather than too little. In very dry areas it will be more productive if watered occasionally.
Fertilizer Needs: Light. Sage will grow in any well-drained soil, it doesn't need to be very fertile.
Watering: Water, 1 cups per plant, every 2 weeks. Water when soil is dry, especially in the summertime. If gardening in containers, check the soil more regularly, at least once a week.
Pruning: every 4 weeks. Remove the flower stalks as they appear (unless you want seed or enjoy the blooms) as this diverts energy from vegetative growth. If a plant start to get woody after 2 or 3 years, cut it back hard, to encourage tender new growth. If a plant gets very woody dig it up, divide it, and replant the most vigorous parts (or just take cuttings from it).
Side Dressing: Compost tea, 1 cup(s) per plant, 1 time. If you need a lot of Sage you could give your plants a cup of fertilizer occasionally to encourage greater leaf production. Generally you don't need that much though.
Storage Req: Drying
Storage Temp: 55-70°F
Storage Length: 1-180 days
Seed Viability in Years: 3-5 years
Rich, bold distinct flavor, great for savory dishes.
Sage is at its best before the plant flowers. It is best used fresh, but is also good dried.
Sage is a very versatile herb and can be used in a variety of recipes including, stuffings, sauces, meat and fish dishes, fried in pasta, an accent for sweet desserts.
Leaves and flowers: raw or cooked. A very common herb, the strongly aromatic leaves are used as a flavoring in cooked foods. They are an aid to digestion and so are often used with heavy, oily foods. They impart a sausage-like flavor to savory dishes. The young leaves and flowers can be eaten raw, boiled, pickled or used in sandwiches. The flowers can also be sprinkled on salads to add color and fragrance. A herb tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves, it is said to improve the digestion. An essential oil obtained from the plant is used commercially to flavor ice cream, sweets, baked goods etc.
Sage repels cabbage moths and black flea beetles. Allowing sage to flower will also attract many beneficial insects and the flowers are pretty. There are some very striking varieties of sage with variegated foliage that can be used for their ornamental as well as practical qualities.
Do not plant near cucumbers, onions or rue.
The Health Benefits of Sage
Inflammation Issues: Chewing on sage leaves is not always the most pleasant remedy, as the flavor can be quite intense, but this may be the most effective way to get the organic compounds acting in your system the fastest. Creating a tincture or steeping leaves can also due the trick, but if you suffer from inflammatory issues, particularly in the respiratory or gastrointestinal tracts, you can eliminate that inflammation with this sage brew. The anti-inflammatory qualities of sage extend to health issues such as arthritis and gout, as well as general inflammation of the cardiovascular system, which can result in heart disease and increased blood pressure. The flavonoids and phenolic compounds found in sage are responsible for these beneficial effects.
Antioxidant Impact: Chronic conditions and degenerative diseases can be some of the most debilitating and dangerous health concerns that you face in your life. Many of these health issues are caused by free radicals, the dangerous by products of cellular metabolism that attack healthy cells, causing apoptosis or mutation. Antioxidant compounds found in sage, such as rosmarinic acid, luteolin, and apigenin, can all work to neutralize free radicals and prevent them from creating oxidative stress in the heart, organ systems, skin, joints, muscles, and even the brain.
Cognitive Disorders: As mentioned above, sage does have the ability to stimulate brain function to improve memory and concentration; however, it also works to eliminate cognitive disorders that may arise, including Alzheimer’s and dementia. Although research into these applications is still in the relatively early stages, it is exciting to see real strides being taken with herbal alternatives to pharmaceutical treatment. The neural pathways stimulated by the extracts and essential oils of sage can keep the mind fresh and youthful well into your older ages.
Immune System Strength: There are some antimicrobial properties that have been identified in sage, and while sage is usually consumed in relatively small quantities, you can create a topical application of sage (salve or tincture) and use it to prevent bacterial and viral infections that attack the body through the skin. We often think of illness entering through our nose or mouth, but the skin can also be compromised and be used as a gateway for foreign agents. A topical cream or antibacterial routine that includes sage could be an extra line of defense against that sort of illness vector.
Bone Strength: One of the most overlooked benefits of sage is actually its superior level of vitamin K, an essential vitamin for the body that isn’t found in many common foods. Vitamin K is a crucial element in developing bone density and ensuring the integrity of our bones as we age. If you suffer from early signs of osteoporosis or have lived a rather nutrient-poor, sedentary lifestyle, your bone health is likely low. Adding sage leaves to your diet can increase your vitamin K levels significantly, as a single service has 27% of your daily recommended intake.
Skin Conditions: A topical salve can be created using sage leaves or a tincture of the plant that has been shown to be effective against certain skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, and acne. These unsightly blemishes can be quickly soothed and their appearance can be reduced gradually if you regularly apply sage extracts and salves to the inflamed or affected area.
Diabetes Management: There may be some debate about the efficacy of sage on certain health conditions explained above, but when it comes to diabetes, there is widespread agreement. Sage contains certain extracts and chemicals that mimic the drugs typically prescribed for managing diabetes. Sage appears to regulate and inhibit the release of stored glucose in the liver, preventing major fluctuations of blood sugar, which can help to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes, or at least manage the condition if it has already manifested.
Digestion: The rosmarinic acid found in sage acts as an anti-inflammatory agent in many parts of the body, even in the stomach, where it prevents gastric spasms and can significantly lower the occurrence of diarrhea and gastritis for patients suffering from the uncomfortable and embarrassing conditions. Adding sage to your meals can get your entire digestive process back on track and reduce inflammation throughout the gut.
A Final Word of Warning: Although there is not a measurable amount of oxalates or purines, nor is sage considered a typically allergenic herb, it is still in the mint family, so those who suffer from allergic reactions to members of that broad plant family should still consult a doctor before adding sage to your dietary or supplementation regimen.
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