sage

It is such a joy to grow herbs in our zone 4 Rocky Mountain region because the perennial varieties will appear in our Montana gardens year after year. Sage is one of my favorite herbs and it appeared right on time in mid-June looking quite perky in its designated place in the small herb garden. What could be better than fresh or dried sage for your turkey stuffing at Thanksgiving time?

A bed of sage varieties can be quite interesting for a mixture of color and textures. Perhaps one or two of each would make a lovely group. Most kitchen herbs tend toward various shades of green mixed with silvery grey-green tones showing purplish hues or varigated shades of ivory, pale yellow-gold or rose. Mixing with purple flowering plants such as lavenders, asters, veronica or chives provides a new dimension of color. Other varieties have a soft purple hue which compliments other garden herbs such as oregano, lavender and rosemary which have similar growing requirements. 

Growing sage from seeds is time consuming and I prefer to purchase my starts from a local nursery. Sage likes full sun but will tolerate some shade and grows happily in a well-drained or gravelly soil and will enjoy some added compost. Avoid woody mulches to discourage fungal diseases caused by lack of aeration. You can see why sage may enjoy living in a rock garden. 

Most of the sage varieties are hardy and will generally winter over, even in our climate. It is easily propagated from root-cuttings or root division. Cut back by one-third in the fall. The most common culinary uses for this herb are in sausages and with poultry, game, and liver. It can also add flavor to vegetables such as winter squashes, potatoes, yams, and perhaps as an accent for beans, egg dishes and breads. Pineapple and fruit scented sage make a delicious tea.Since Roman times, sage has been used to calm the stomach and nerves, and to treat sore throats, bad breath and gum disease. You may want to do more research if you plan to self treat. 

Another use for sage is the 

time-honored ritual of “smudging” to improve the feel of your living space. Smudging is a symbolic exercise found in many Native American traditions, alternative healing practices, and in Feng Shui practice. Smudging may be an effective way to clear negative energy from your home. 

There is much more to learn about this multi-use herb and I urge the reader to further explore this fascinating plant. 

Nancy Riebe is a master gardener and master composter from Belgrade whose columns appear weekly throughout the growing season. Reach her in care of editor@belgrade-news.com.