Salvia officinalis: Sage, Common sage

Family: Lamiaceae
Common name: Sage, Common sage, Garden sage, Kitchen sage, Culinary sage, Broadleaf stage, True sage, Dalmation sage

Sage is a beautiful, versatile herb with unique leaves that have a rough, bumpy texture; and small, purple flowers. These plants grow to a height of 1-1.2 meters with long stems that are partially upright.

Leaves are greyish-green with a velvety or bumpy texture, sometimes whitish-green and sometimes variegated. These leaves are 4-6 cms long with an irregular margin and a distinct peppery fragrance.

Sage flowers come in a range of colors like purple, pink, white, and red. They are formed on long spikes that are raised high above the level of the leaves, tubular with two distinct lips. Flowers contain both male and female reproductive organs and are pollinated by bees, insects, and ants that are attracted to them.

Sage is a common name used for over 900 species of plants and their hybrids all over the world. But in common culinary terms, Sage refers to the herb that is grown in home gardens and used extensively in cooking. The term officinalis refers to the medicinal value of this herb.

Sage, along with thyme, rosemary and parsley are considered essential herbs in European cuisine, especially Italian, where it’s used in breads, chicken, turkey, fish, pizza, pasta, sandwiches, salads, etc. Tea brewed from sage leaves is considered to be a tonic and stimulant. Flowers are used in salads for fragrance and a dash of color.

This multipurpose herb also has many medicinal uses, in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, blood sugar, cholesterol, inflammation, digestive problems, loss of appetite, insect bites, heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea, excess perspiration, cold sores, sore throat, and asthma. Consuming sage regularly is said to improve memory and mental performance.

These plants are used in making cosmetics and soaps due to their soothing aroma. Essential oils derived from sage plants are used in aromatherapy, perfumes, and shampoos. Sage leaves contain Vitamin A, K, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

These herbs do well in full sunlight and well-drained soil. They need regular watering, fertilization, and occasional pruning so that they don’t become long and leggy. While harvesting, be careful not to tug on the leaves too hard so that the roots are pulled. Leaves or small sprigs can be snipped off gently from the plant. It’s best to harvest lightly during the first year of growth to help the plant grow well.

They can be used fresh or dried, both giving a unique flavor to the dishes. It’s a good idea to have a small patch in the garden with oregano, sage, parsley, rosemary, and thyme growing together.

Common cultivars are Alba that has white flowers, Aurea or golden sage, Icterina that has green and yellow variegated leaves, Tricolor with white, green and purple leaves, Purpurascens that has purple-colored leaves and many more.

Propagation is through stem cuttings.