Garden sage: Also known as Common Sage, it is a perennial shrub that grows to 3 feet high and has oval gray green leaves 1 – 2 inches long that are coarsely textured. Violet blue flowers appear on tall spikes. This Garden Sage is a common sage in use for thousands of years in Europe for culinary and medical uses. All sages have common applications but the best pairing for garden sage is in the kitchen. Chicken is the classic pairing. A classic recipe is a whole chicken that you insert fresh whole sage leaves under the skin into one inch slits.
Common garden sage has been cultivated for centuries in the regions of southeastern Europe and Asia Minor. Over half of the world’s sage supply is still harvested from the wild in the mountains of Albania, Montenegro, and Croatia. It grows to about 2-1/2 feet and is characterized by long narrow, white woolly, gray green leaves . The white to dusky mauve flowers are the chief ornamental feature.
Sage needs full sun and grows best in poor well-drained somewhat dry soil, which makes it fairly drought resistant. You can propagate sage by seed, cuttings and the layering.
Overwatering can cause serious mildew problems. Cut back the stems after blooming. If you cut frequently to harvest leaves be sure to fertilize plants occasionally with a well-balanced fertilizer. You can grow new plants of most species from seeds. Grow garden sage and pineapple sage from low layers and stem cuttings. Renew plants by dividing every 3 to 4 years
For cooking purposes the narrow leaf sage; that bears blue flowers, or the broadleaf sage, of which there are non-flowering varieties are best used for culinary purposes. It has a very assertive flavor. Use the fresh or dried leaves with lamb, veal, stuffing, game, duck, richly flavored fish, sausage, cheese, meat stuffing, and roast goose. Pork and roast goose were not considered well cooked unless sage had been used in preparing them. Sage is easily recognized as the predominant flavor in poultry seasoning; think of your Thanksgiving turkey. Sage is an herb with a warm, slightly bitter taste. Authentic Swiss cheese is seasoned with sage. You can use sage with cheese spreads, add it to fish chowders, or use it with vegetables, especially lima beans, onions, tomatoes, and eggplant.
Sage is best known as the primary seasoning and flavoring ingredient in poultry stuffing and sausages. The herb’s leaves are soft and pliable, which makes them easy to talk under the skin of poultry before roasting.
As culinary sage is a plant that thrives in dry limestone areas in poor well drained soil, though it can be grown almost anywhere if the climate is not too cold and wet for it. Propagation is usually buy cuttings, often rooted by layering. Although the plant is a perennial it becomes woody and straggly, so it’s best to layer and replant every few years. One or two brushes will suffice for the average garden. Sage leaves dry well and are suitable for quick freezing. As with many leafy herbs the best flavors develop just before flowering. Wash the plants in your garden with a very fine spray of water and let it dry overnight. In the morning cut the stems at ground level and hang bunches of stems in a dark and dry area. Strip the leaves from the stems and seal them in airtight containers in a dark pantry.