If you’ve considered edible sage as a pungent but dusty seasoning holiday cooks dutifully add to the turkey stuffing, take another look at this wonderfully flavored, culinary herb that will invigorate your garden and containers. Toss out that old jar of dried stuff and reach for fresh sage this summer! If you plant a variety of sages now, you’ll be dressing up far more than just your turkey!
Garden sage, or Salvia officinalis, is a wild-gathered herb imported from along the Dalmatian coast of the former Yugoslavia and Albania. The oblong, bumpy leaves add texture and fragrance to gardens around the world. Wise cooks use it in poultry dishes, sausage, baked beans, pasta sauces, liqueurs, and bitters. While a little goes a long way, sage leaves are also known as safe antioxidants and can help digest rich, fatty foods. Sage also kills bacteria and fungus.
Later in the summer when sage blooms, bees and other pollinators are attracted to its stalks of lavender-blue flowers. Sage is considered a perennial in warmer climates, but often grown as an annual in colder climates. S. offiicanalis will grow 1-3 feet in full sun and is best started from transplants.
But even with all this going for it, there’s no reason to limit your sage seasoning to ordinary S. officinalis. Let me introduce you to a few varieties that may freshen your taste buds and fancy-up your garden. While they all have a distinctive sage flavor and can be used in your favorite dishes, they are also all slightly different and worth trying to find your favorite!
Tri-color sage is known for it’s soft-colored splashes of green, ivory and pinkish-purple. It’s considered a tender perennial and grows very well in containers as it only gets 15-18 inches tall.
The broad leaves on this sage have a purple hue to them which deepens as the summer progresses. It’s also a tender perennial, but can reach heights of 2 ½ – 3 feet. Since my season is fairly short, I plant it in a container with no difficulty. However, if you have a longer growing season it’s also ideal as a border or accent plant.
Golden sage is the jazziest of these sages with it’s yellow and green variegated leaves. It’s a standout in a container and also well-behaved as it only grows to be about 12 inches.
Pineapple sage attracts a lot of attention in my garden. I add its leaves to tea and lemonade for a fresh, slightly citrus flavor. By the end of the summer it has sent up red, yes RED, stalks that attract the end-of-season hummingbirds in droves.
In warmer climates pineapple sage can grow from 3-4 feet tall. Mine typically gets about 30 inches in a season. I often plant it with purpurea sage and fern lavender for a pollinator-friendly container that looks great on my patio from spring through fall.
Before I wrap up this post, I’d like to share one of my favorite summer sage recipes to get you cooking fresh and fun. My family loves these Grilled Turkey Burgers. My husband eats them with traditional ketchup, but I love them topped with a sassy bbq sauce.
- 1 pound ground turkey
- ¼ cup dry bread crumbs
- 1 T. lemon juice
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp fresh sage (modify to taste)
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 2-3 slices provolone cheese
- Mix ground turkey, bread crumbs, lemon juice, oil, salt, sage and pepper. Shape into 6 small patties or 4 larger patties. Place half-slice of cheese on each patty.
- Grill until no longer pink inside, approximately 10 minutes per side. Time will vary depending on grill.
I love learning new ways to use herbs in the kitchen. If you have a favorite sage recipe, please share!