Notes from Herb Heaven


This hardy, evergreen-grey shrub is a perennial well loved for its healing properties. The Romans used it as a sacred herb and its name means to save or heal. Sage grows well in full sun and needs a dry, rich, well-drained soil. Propagation is by seed or cuttings, which can be taken at any time of the year. Use fresh seed, which germinates well and plant in seed boxes. When the plant is 8-10 cm tall, transplant out into the garden, about 45 cm apart. Give sage a deep watering about once a week. Do not let the roots get waterlogged or they will rot and the plant will die. Feed the plant with an organic fertiliser once when planting and once each spring.

Replace the plant every three or four years. When the wood hardens, they produce fewer young leaves. Sage does well in containers, but make sure that the pots are big enough and use a sandy soil mixture. Water well once or twice a week. Clip sage lightly so that it does not become too leggy, but take care not to cut into old wood. To dry sage, pick before flowering and hang up in bunches in a warm, dry place, away from strong sunlight. When dry, crumble the leaves and store them in airtight containers. Sage and rosemary make good companions in the garden. Cabbage and carrots like sage as well as it tends to repel the cabbage moth as well as white flies and carrot flies. Grow some sage to add to insect repellent sprays.

Dried sage in the linen cupboard will keep insects at bay. Sage has been said to restore failing memory to the elderly. It makes a good gargle and mouthwash for sore throats, tonsillitis, mouth ulcers and gum disease. Chew on the fresh leaves to aid digestion. Sage is an excellent tonic and liver stimulant. Make a tea with a ¼ cup of fresh leaves, steeped in a cup of boiling water for five minutes, strained and sweetened with honey if liked. Use this for coughs and colds, to help the memory and to improve digestion and circulation. It can relieve night sweats during menopause. The Chinese use the root to make a decoction for angina and coronary heart disease where the condition is caused by blood stagnation. People with epilepsy should avoid sage, as the thujone in the plant can trigger fits. Not to be used in therapeutic doses by pregnant women, although a little can be used in cooking. Sage makes a good hair rinse for dandruff. In the kitchen, sage is excellent with fatty meats, pork sausages, pasta and cheese sauces, gravies and stocks and in sauces and stuffing. It is also used in vinegars and in herb butters. Pineapple sage goes well with citrus fruits and its edible red flowers look great in a salad.

Low-fat Sage and Onion Stuffing

2 medium onions
225 g fresh breadcrumbs, white or brown
125 g toasted medium oats
1 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbs chopped sage or more, to taste
juice of ½ a lemon
salt and pepper

 Peel the onions and cook in boiling water
for about 30 minutes or until tender.
Drain and chop finely. 
Mix all the ingredients together 
and use it to stuff chicken, duck or goose.

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