Growing Culinary Sage for Kitchens Gardens or Dry Landscapes (Salvia Officinalis)

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The sage herbs you cook with in the kitchen also a makes a delicious addition to dry gardens. Culinary Sage or salvia officinalis is native to the warm Mediterranean regions. They grow to a height of three feet tall and almost as wide. The stems are square and woody, usually covers with short hairs. All parts of this grayish green plant are aromatic. Salvia leaves are long and thin, up to 4 inches long and 1/2 inch across. They are crinkly, fragrant and sticky and can be used in cooking either fresh or dried. Sage grows in full sun to partial, dappled shade, and are hardy to about 20 degrees.

Sage plants flower in the summer with upright usually with blue or light blue flowers. They are beautiful in arrangements, or dried for kitchen decoration. Salvia can tolerate regular garden watering, but will also do well in drought conditions. After a few years they will need to be cut back to remove dead branches and maintain shape.

Sage can be grown in containers. The recommended size is at least an 8 inch pot, or larger. The smaller the pot, the faster plants can dry out, so it is advisable to water every week as long as the soil doesn't become soggy.

Sage has a strong, earthy aroma. It adds flavor and depth to stews and soups. It mixes well with beef or chicken and makes green beans seem a little bit heartier. Pineapple sage is a close relative and adds a lighter flavor to food. It goes well with chicken. Fresh sage is great stuffed into chicken or turkey roasts and you can use the whole branch. Put an orange in there for a great flavor combo. The best time to pick sage for drying is just before the flowers open on the plant, but any time of year will work. To dry the herbs, tie them in a bunch and hang them upside down in a cool dry place to snip as needed.

Before modern medicine sage tea was gargled for sore throats and cold tea was drunk to stop sweating. Crushed fresh leaves were used on insect bites. The Romans used sage in religious rites and Native Americans recognize White Sage for blessing and cleansing.

Start a little kitchen garden either outdoors or on your windowsill. Good companion herb plants for sage are rosemary and thyme as they have similar water and sun requirements. Happy gardening!

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Author: Laura Zinkan
Laura Zinkan is a writer in California. She cultivates a gardening site at www.theGardenPages.com with plant profiles, growing tips about succulents and native plants. She also cooks up www.MomsRetro.com where you can find retro art and kitchen tips for busy cooks.

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