Every Shade of Sage

Explore the different properties of sage that make it a superb herb, including its culinary, health, and wildlife benefits.

| Fall 2019

Photo by Getty Images/vicuschka

Sage’s distinctive, savory scent makes it one of the most versatile and useful herbs around. Though best known as a seasoning for meat and vegetables, sage’s roots are steeped in history.

Common sage (Salvia officinalis) originated in the Mediterranean, where it was used for many different culinary purposes. Through cultivation and naturalization, the genus Salvia quickly expanded to include an estimated 900 species worldwide.

Though first featured in culinary arts, the uses of sage stretch far beyond the kitchen. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian healers tested the herb’s medicinal potential on everything from fertility to the common cold. Today, researchers are studying sage’s effects on memory, cholesterol, and menopause. Herbalists burn sage incense to cleanse the environment and spiritually refresh their homes. Even wild sage plants find value in supporting pollinators.

Sage: A Wise Choice

Sage is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), and when you rub its fuzzy leaves gently between your fingers and smell, its relation is simply undeniable. Common sage, also known as garden sage, is still a popular choice in herb and kitchen gardens. Garden sage grows easily in a pot or in the ground, ready to pluck for seasonal dishes and flavored drinks. For best results, plant in full sun and well-drained soil. It thrives year-round in Zones 5 through 9. In late spring and early summer, fragrant lavender floral spikes invite pollinators. Evergreen foliage remains on twiggy branches, particularly during dry winters.

Photo by Getty Images/Helmagh

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