With its soft grey-green leaves, sage is pretty enough to grow for its looks alone, but it’s also packed with flavour
By Roger Fox

This flavoursome member of the Salvia family flourishes in both pots and garden beds. As part of the Salvia genus (Salvia officinalis), it grows to around 30-60cm high and can be harvested year-round, if winters aren’t too frosty.

In food, sage is native to the Mediterranean region. It was cultivated by the ancient Romans (they believed it prolonged youth!) and it features widely in Italian cuisine. Sage leaves are sautéed in butter or oil before being added to Italian dishes, and it’s often an ingredient in soffritto (the base of an Italian stew). It’s also used in meat seasonings and adds its warmly pungent flavour to vegie recipes too.

To grow

  • Like all salvias, sage can easily grow from seed, but buying seedlings or young plants will give you quicker results.
  • Plant in a sunny spot, in free-draining soil, and apply liquid fertiliser every few weeks to boost growth.
  • Sage is great for containers too, and looks especially lovely in terracotta pots – the grey-green of the foliage creates the perfect contrast for any sunny outdoor area.
  • A potted sage is lovely on a balcony, courtyard or deck.

To harvest

  • Use sage fresh in cooking, harvesting sprigs or individual leaves as you need.
  • The younger, smaller leaves have the sweetest flavour.
  • You can also dry it by hanging a bunch upside down until dried completely, then stripping the leaves and storing them in an air-tight jar.
  • Alternatively, preserve fresh leaves by freezing in ice-cube trays.

Other sages

If you’re looking to pretty up your herb patch, consider growing purple sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’), which has deeper green leaves flushed with purple, or the variety ‘Tricolor’ with pink, cream and purple variegations. Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) has spicily fragrant leaves that can be added to salads and fruit salads, or floated in summer drinks. It also bears pretty red flowers.

Purple Sage
Pineapple Sage
Tricolour Sage

Market tip...

The leaves of sage can be deep fried to make a tasty, crispy chip to be enjoyed as a snack, or broken up and used as a garnish on savoury dishes.

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