Sage is a shrubby perennial of the mint family, bearing oblong, wooly, wrinkled, gray-green leaves. The plants grow to a height of 2' and have a tendency to sprawl unless they are kept trimmed. The lilac blue flowers, which usually don’t appear until the second season, are produced on terminal spikes.
Sage plants can be started from seed, cuttings, or crown divisions. It is easiest to start with established plants from a garden center. Space the plants 18" — 24" apart. Prune severely in the spring to encourage early growth at the expense of flowers. Harvest the leaves before the plants bloom, or cut the stems 6" — 8" long and hang to dry. The leaves dry well by hanging, screen-drying, or in the microwave. Sage does not freeze well; the leaves be come mushy when thawed.
This plant is favored for its gray foliage and pungent scent. In the garden, it is a good companion plant to lavender, silver thyme, and lady’s mantle. It is well-known as an ingredient in stuffing's for poultry, duck, turkey, and goose. It is also used with pork and fish, as well as in soups and salads. The powdered leaves are rubbed on the outside of ham and pork to impart a piquant flavor.
Sage was used during the Middle Ages to treat many maladies including fevers, liver disease, and epilepsy. The herb was used in England to make a tea that was considered a pleasant and healthful beverage. One common belief was that sage strengthened the memory, hence a sage, or a wise man, always had a long memory. In the 9th century, Charlemagne had sage included among the herbs grown on the imperial farms in Germany. During the 17th century, the Chinese exchanged three or four pounds of their tea with Dutch traders for one pound of European sage leaves.
Sage is a fragrant, yet pungent herb. Pairs perfectly with poultry dishes. Also used in stuffing's. Has a slightly fuzzy gray-green leaf and makes a lovely garnish.