Sage: Rich Variety Of Culinary And Incense Herbs

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You know sage from your garden. Few people know about its diversity of species and varieties: peach sage, honeydew melon sage, and others.

The sage ( Salvia ), which belongs to the mint family, is one of the most versatile herbal plants that can be grown in your own garden. Scientifically known as Salvia, the name is derived from salvus (healthy, healthy) or salvare (to heal). Because the tasty herb has always been valued not only in the kitchen but also in traditional medicinal medicine. Some more are still cultivated as ornamental plants, while the rest are mostly wild plants. Much of the commercially grown sage is used in the manufacture of essential oils and fragrances.

Well-known sage species at a glance

In addition to the well-known spice and garden sage ( Salvia officinalis ), there are countless other types of Salvia. The variety of sage includes around 800 to 900 different species. Some also have a meaning for humans and are used either for smoking or as culinary herbs. The different types of sage differ significantly not only in their use. The color spectrum of the flowers ranges, for example, from a classic blue to violet-lilac, through orange and pink, to an intense scarlet red. Only a few selected species are presented below.

  • Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii)
  • Fruit Sage (Salvia dorisiana)
  • Spice and garden sage (Salvia officialis)
  • Honeydew melon sage (Salvia elegans)
  • Indian smoked sage (Salvia apiana)
  • Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
  • Peruvian sage (Salvia discolor)
  • Peach Sage (Salvia greggii)
  • Black currant sage (Salvia microphylla)

Sage: a portrait of the rich variety of culinary and incense herbs

The honeydew melon sage impresses with its beautiful red flowers

There are also countless other types of sage. To name just a few more: fruit sage (Salvia dorisiana ), shrub sage (Salvia heerii ), Spanish sage ( Salvia lavandulifolia ), and creeping sage ( Salvia nevadensis ). The Mexican Chia ( Salvia hispanica ) is grown to obtain the chia seeds that are currently in vogue. Even if the scientific name suggests it, this species should not be confused with the Spanish sage ( Salvia lavandulifolia ).

Varieties of garden sage

Over the past centuries, the wild form of sage has been bred and selected more and more. The focus here was primarily on yield and aroma. The sage variety Extract, for example, is the record holder for the content of essential oils. Since the flowers are a hindrance, especially for commercial herb cultivation, there is a flowerless sage variety with the Non-Flower variety. In the past few years, particularly multi-colored varieties such as creme de la creme, tricolor or rotmühle have emerged. In the following we briefly introduce some well-tried and good new breeds:

  • Alba: White flowering sage variety with a fairly compact habit; also well suited for keeping pots; intense, pleasant aroma; slightly bitter.
  • Berggarten: a variety of sage with large, broad leaves; therefore ideally suited for the preparation of saltimbocca or similar; very good aroma; quite compact growth.
  • Crispa: Sage variety with a very special look: the leaves are quite broad, fluffy and clearly curled at the edges; very good aroma.
  • Extrakta: cultivation with a very high content of essential oils; particularly intense in taste and also suitable for smoking; Since you only need a few leaves for seasoning, one plant in the garden is usually sufficient.
  • Nana Alba: Like Nana, only with white flowers; pleasant aroma; well suited for cultivation in pots.
  • Nana: As the name suggests: very compact variety with small, narrow leaves; ideal for culture on the balcony.
  • Nazareth: Very downy and silvery variety from Israel; Leaves are elongated, narrow; very good, intense aroma.
  • Non-Flower: If you don’t grow sage as an ornamental plant, but only to harvest the leaves, you should use this variety. This does not form flowers and can put all of its energy into the formation of shoots and leaves. Flavorful, aromatic and very good.
  • Rosea: Particularly beautiful, pink flowering variety; leaves that are quite small for a cultivar, but with a sweetish aroma.
  • Windeck: Leaves similar in size and good aroma to Berggarten, but more vigorous; rather unsuitable for a culture in a pot; but the very good aroma and ideal leaf size for processing in the kitchen (saltimbocca, etc.).

Sage: a portrait of the rich variety of culinary and incense herbs

A yellowish-green variegated sage not only looks decorative, the taste is also excellent

Varieties of sage with variegated leaves:

  • Creme de la creme : variety of sage with a creamy white varnish, especially on the edges of the leaves; two-tone: cream white – green.
  • Aurea: Well-known variety of sage, which is also often referred to as golden sage; golden yellow to green-yellow variegated leaves; good taste.
  • Purpurascens: leaves of the higher lying and younger shoots are purple in color; later these become greyish green; beautiful appearance, good taste, but similar to the Tricolor variety, only partially hardy.
  • Tricolor: variety with a particularly beautiful leaf look: the leaves are variegated white-green, with the leaves of the higher-lying shoots turning purple to pink. Requires a very well-protected location in Germany as it is less tolerant of frost than other varieties.

Cultivation of the garden sage

Sage found its way from the Mediterranean to us, but sage can also be grown in our farms. The plant likes deep, slightly stony soils that are permeable to water. Similar to lavender, the sage likes it chalky. Soils that are too acidic should be prepared accordingly with garden lime. The location should be very sunny, hot and sheltered. If you want to do something good for the herb, you can put it on a stone wall or house wall. This heats up during the day and gives off the heat again in the evening and night.

Sage can be propagated from cuttings and seeds. The sowing takes place from the end of March to the beginning of April. Our Gardender organic herb and sowing soil is ideal for this. The first flowering usually takes place after 2 years. Young plants should not be harvested too heavily, especially in the beginning, as they need the strength to grow. Even better results are achieved with cuttings. For this purpose, especially the younger shoots that are not yet lignified are separated from the mother plant and rooted in compressed air (mini-greenhouse, PET bottle, etc.).

Sage should be fertilized every now and then. However, you shouldn’t use fertilizers too often, as this can negatively affect both the taste and winter hardiness. Older sage plants in particular tend to lignify from underneath. A topiary should therefore be made after flowering or in early spring. Here, the plant is shortened by around 40-50 percent. Most sage varieties are well hardy in the USA. In areas with a harsh climate or exposed locations, the plant should be protected from frost with some brushwood or fleece. Some soil can also be piled up around the planting disc. This also protects the roots. If you want to grow multi-colored sage varieties such as Tricolor or Purpurascens, you should pay particular attention to appropriate winter protection. Both varieties are considered hardy down to -12 ° C. Thus, the two varieties can only be grown in the climatically favorable wine-growing regions. However, sage can also be grown in a larger terracotta pot on the terrace. You can simply put this in the gazebo or an unheated garage over the winter.

Sage: a portrait of the rich variety of culinary and incense herbs

Harvest, store and preserve sage properly

The leaves of the sage can be harvested from late spring to autumn. If you snap off the young shoots, this promotes the branching of the plant. In the long run you get ready and bushy plants. The young sage leaves go well with all kinds of dishes, which will be discussed in more detail in the following section. The leaves taste best before they bloom. But even during and after flowering, the aroma is more than sufficient for processing. The sage flowers are edible. They can be used to decorate dishes very nicely.

Sage: a portrait of the rich variety of culinary and incense herbs

Storing sage is a little easier than storing thin-leaf herbs like basil or coriander. Sage can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. The best way to do this is to leave the leaves on the stem and wrap the herb bundle in a slightly damp kitchen towel. Sage can also often be bought dried in grocery stores. The dried leaves still taste good, but most of the aromas are lost. Even if many gardeners do not yet have it on their radar: Sage is easy to freeze. We particularly recommend this if you want to add the cabbage to a butter sauce.

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Ingredients and use

The medicinal herb connoisseur knows that the “officinalis” in the Latin name of the sage indicates its use in medicine. The many essential oils, in particular, are used in folk medicine against cramps, inflammation, and sweating. The substances thujone and cineole are particularly important here. If you brew sage into a tea, it tastes bitter, but it is precisely these bitter substances that are important for their anti-inflammatory effect. In addition, the basic herb contains many minerals such as iron and magnesium.

As with any food, however, one must be careful and limit intake to a normal dose. Because thujone and camphor are toxic in too high doses. Sage should also be avoided during pregnancy.

Sage: a portrait of the rich variety of culinary and incense herbs

As a culinary herb, sage is particularly popular with meat and fish. It can be combined well with veal, lamb, poultry or rabbit. Sage is also used in pot roasts. Although you can no longer perceive the taste in detail after the long cooking process, sage rounds off the overall impression of the gravy. Sage also rounds off the taste of fatty fish such as sea bream, eel, or moray eel. It is best to place one or two leaves in the abdomen during cooking. Sage does not only go well with pure meat dishes, it also gives gnocchi its unmistakable taste together with butter or olive oil, for example. The herb also goes extremely well with pasta with mushrooms.

Important : Sage dissolves the aromas best in fat. The leaves are heated in olive oil or butter. However, this process should be carried out as slowly and gently as possible. Temperatures that are too high destroy many of the valuable ingredients and flavors. The fat should always stay below its smoke point when heated!

In addition to being used as a tea or aromatic herb, particularly hearty types of sage such as Nazareth or Extrakta can be used for smoking. If you have enough space in the garden, you can also plant Indian smoked sage (Salvia apiana).

Diseases and pests

Sage has the biggest problems with the culture conditions. Waterlogging and heavy frosts are poorly tolerated. Diseases and pests rarely occur in your own garden. Powdery mildew can sometimes occur. Spider mites also occur occasionally. However, both adversities can be dealt with without a great deal of chemicals.

Are you also an avid fan of sage? Share your experiences with us. We’re glad!

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