Sage Herb Information

Herb: Sage

Sage, Salvia officinalis, is a culinary herb used to flavor meats and vegetables.

Sage is a great landscaping plant in addition to its use as a cooking herb or herb for potpourri. The narrow leaves of sage may be variegated or not and its flowers may be light or dark blue, white or red depending on the variety. The elongated leaves have many veins which gives them a wrinkled appearance.

Sage Characteristics

  • small shrub to 3 feet tall
  • fuzzy, thick stems turn woody with age
  • distinctly oval-shaped leaves, 2-4 inches long
  • leaves have crinkly appearance
  • hairy, downy leaves and young stems
  • purple to blue, white or red tubular flowers on separate flower stalks
  • cultivated in gardens as a culinary herb and ornamental plant

Sage Uses

  • medicinal
  • culinary
  • gardening

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Growing Sage

Growing conditions: Sage grows the best in sunny locations. Renew plants in a few years when they become woody.

Light: sun

Height: 30 inches

Spacing: 12 inches

Planting comments: Start seeds indoors to have transplants for an earlier harvest. Seeds germininate between 60 and 75 degrees F.

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Sage Images

Sage Getting Ready to Flower
Sage Getting Ready to Flower

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Where to Buy Sage

Sage is available as seeds or plants. Depending on the time of year you may be able to find a plant at your nearby garden center. In case they’re are not available locally, here are some places that offer herb seeds and herb plants.

In case you can’t find what you’re looking for commercially, take a look at some of the online seed swap sites where you can find many unusual plants and common ones, too.

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Chef’s Article: Sage Is The Turkey Stuffing Herb

by Naomi Gallagher

Sage is a spice that comes from a small perennial shrub of the mint family, Lamiaceae, that is native to the Mediterranean area. Common sage, Salvia officinalis, grows about 2 feet tall with large, oval-shaped crinkly leaves. The light grayish green leaves are accented with colorful spikes of flowers. Flower colors vary with the type of sage and include white, blue, purple, pink and red. It’s often planted as much for its beauty as for its culinary appeal, so common sage is also known as garden sage.

There are over 700 species of Salvia with some being used for their aroma and others grown in gardens for their beautiful flower spikes. For example, Common sage and Clary sage, S. sclarea, are grown for their aromatic flavorings. White sage, S. apiana, is used ceremonially by Native Americans and for cleansing rituals as it imparts a delicate woody scent when burned. Blue sage, S. farinacea, is a desert shrub, flowering with beautiful blue flowers after rains in the Southwestern North America. Scarlet sage, S. splendens, is popular with gardeners for its attractive scarlet red flower spikes.

Common sage is cultivated for its leaves that have a characteristic aroma. The leaves are used fresh or dried in stuffings for pork and poultry, with cheeses and in sausages. It’s slightly peppery flavor balances well with fatty meats. The aroma is so distinct as to be used sparingly and in a limited number of dishes. Sage is particularly liked in Italian and English cooking. In addition to its use in turkey stuffing, especially in the United States at Thanksgiving time, sage is an integral part in the Italian saltimbocca, a dish with fresh sage leaves sandwiched by veal medallions and paper-thin slices of prosciutto that are skewered together and browned in butter.

Fresh sage may be available in some markets, but dried sage is usually found in the spice racks. Dried and ground sage can go musty quickly, so it can be kept in a cool, dry, dark place for only a few months. Alternatively, fresh sage leaves can be washed, dried and layered in a container with salt. The container can then be refrigerated or frozen to keep the salt-preserved sage indefinitely. Wash the salt from the leaves before using.

Sage tea was used as a spring tonic for centuries in the belief that it could awake one’s body after a long winter rest. Sage leaves and the whole herb have been used for its antiperspiration, antibiotic, astringent, antispasmodic, estrogenic, antioxidant and hypoglycemic properties. The healing effects of sage are due to the essential oils present. Essential oil content of sage, up to 2.5%, primarily contains thujone, cineole and borneol.

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