The robust flavor and smell of fresh cut herbs is something we never forget. Be it cut from our own garden or offered by a friend from their garden. Packaged, store bought can rarely compare in color, aroma or flavor and once you have tried garden grown it is hard to use the store bought afterwards.
I have been growing
most of my own herbs in our garden for many years. They are the easiest part of gardening as they require a lot less care than a lot of the vegetables we grow. One of the nice things is that most herbs grow as well in pots as in the ground and it’s nice to be able to move them around, use them for decoration on the patio or bring indoors.
I sometimes hear that cooking from scratch (such as soups and stews) are so bland. Ah but we can flavor them much better than the store bought packaged stuff and with delicious healthy spices and herbs rather than some chemical concoction.
If you decide to purchase herbs and spices pre packaged .. please look for organic. Otherwise they are generally irradiated. Irradiation kills microbes, pests, and bacteria, but it generally also kills nutrients.
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Sage is my favorite of all and very easy to grow. It’s a member of the mint family but it does not spread anything like mint does and thank goodness.
It comes back for several years. It doesn’t need fertilizer in spring but a good organic mulch during the cold winter months will help it thru to the next year. A key to sage care and appearance is to cut it back in late winter to early spring. Sage seeds are slow to germinate and we usually buy a starter plant from the local greenhouse. I prefer to use the simple Garden Sage more often than not. Sage likes full sun and well drained soil. The roots do not like to stay wet.
A few health benefits
of sage include helping to regulate digestion, boosting the immune system, and strengthening bones. It has also been reported to stop bleeding, lower cholesterol, alleviate menopausal symptoms, and disinfect sores. And don’t forget the sage essential oil. I use it often.
There are several types of sage plants and you want to choose from the edible varieties. Basically: Golden sage, Purple sage, Tri-colored sage, and Garden sage. We generally grow the basic garden sage.
The garden sage variety grows pretty fast and we usually get two cuttings per season for drying. By cuttings, I mean long stems full of leaves. Generally enough to last all winter and then some.
I will cut – rinse and then dry it. I cut it long enough that I can tie a bundle at one end and hang to dry. We also pick fresh leaves to use throughout the growing season and sometimes will pick just the leaves to dry. In that case I use a herb drying rack similar to this one in the picture. Or if your just drying a little you can place the leaves on a plate and set aside in a cool, dry place until dry.
I dry outside on the patio most of the time and it takes from a few days to a week or more depending on the weather and how much humidity is in the air. If we are having to much rain then I will dry indoors. A lot of times the house is much dryer than outdoors depending on the weather. You can tell when its done as it will crackle into pieces between your fingers. Once that is done it’s time to store it.
It’s best to store your dried herbs in airtight containers in a cool dark place. Canning jars or jam jars work very well and they come in various sizes from 4 oz and up and are cost effective as we can use them over and over and for a great variety of things. You can even buy amber colored canning jars. It’s a good idea to label and date the jars. If you notice the slightest sign of mold — toss them because it will only spread. This should not be a problem if we dry them thoroughly.
Sage and any dried herb are best used within a year. As your herbs lose their color, they are also losing their flavor.
I wish I could tell you “how much” to use. I do not measure them. I just toss some in. Really – everyone’s personal taste is different. I like to test taste as I cook if it’s a soup or stew. Still a little bland? Then in goes a bit more sage and/or other herbs. A guideline for using dry vs fresh picked is -1 teaspoon of crumbled dried leaves -to- a tablespoon of fresh herbs
Sage is widely used to flavor veal, sausages, cured meats and stuffing. I add it to most of my veggie soups and stews, spaghetti sauce, chili as well as many hamburger dishes. I also add it to my Italian mix of herbs.
Sometimes I grow some extra plants that I make into sage bundles for burning/smudging
Linda Carlson – Certified Nutrition & Wellness Counselor (retired) with 25+ years background.
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