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You just can't overdo sage in the garden. This perennial herb earns its keep with fast-growing ways, beautiful blooms, and a flavor deer find distasteful. Once established, plants shrug off drought, although it's wise to keep plants well-hydrated through the hottest parts of summer if you want a steady supply of supple foliage.
Some gardeners pinch out flower buds to keep leaves forming, but the blooms are beautiful. If you choose to let plants flower, when blossoms fade, cut plants back to beneath where flower buds formed. Don't cut back to woody stems that have no leaves; those most likely won't sprout again. Sage plants typically require replacing every 3-4 years, as plants become woody and produce fewer leaves.
The uses of sage are beyond measure. Besides its popular use as a culinary herb, sage is also commonly pressed into service in cosmetics, perfumes, and soaps. Some naturalists rub it on their skin as an insect repellent. Hanging dried leaves among woolen clothing deters moths. Burning sage removes unpleasant odors, such as lingering cigarette smoke or cooked fish smells.
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Part Sun, Sun
1 to 3 feet
how to grow Sage
Pick sage throughout the growing season, removing individual leaves. Use fresh leaves when possible, or air dry leaves. If you plan to harvest stems for drying, wash plants the night before with a spray of water. Cut stems the following morning, after dew has dried. Harvest the top 6-8 inches of growth on plants. Bundle three to four stems together and hang upside down in a dark, dry place with good air circulation. Another drying method is to spread individual stems on screens. Sage leaves are susceptible to mold; keep an eye on drying stems. When leaves are fully dry, crumble them and store in airtight containers. Flavor will keep 3-4 months. Note that drying intensifies the flavor; use dried sage carefully.
In the kitchen, celebrate sage in traditional poultry and stuffing dinners, use it to rub meats before grilling, or add to egg or cheese dishes. Try blending a pork and bean soup seasoned with thyme and sage. Sage accents fruit-based vinegars, creating beautiful mixtures with delicate aromas and tastes. On the whole use dried sage sparingly in cooking; too much yields a musty flavor. Don't overlook edible sage blooms. Toss them onto salads for a splash of color, blend them into butter or soft cheeses for a spicy spread, or freeze them in ice cubes to give summer beverages a little zip.