Grown in the garden or in a pot, sage is a useful herb during flu season
Q: I often buy dried sage for kitchen use, but is it easy to grow in the garden for this purpose?
A: I often am asked this as fall approaches, as this herb is very helpful for a sore throat once flu season comes along.
Definitely easy to grow, sage prefers a sunny spot in the garden and is not overly particular about soil conditions. You can also have great success planting sage in containers. It grows extremely fast, and varieties like ‘Tri-Colour’ are very attractive.
Harvesting regularly is advised to keep the plant in a firm bushy form. Like most herbs that you're looking to dry, I would suggest lightly bundling it into a hand-tied bouquet and placing it upside down in a paper bag (crimping the top of the bag around the base of the upside down clump). Hang the bag in a dark, cool room until the leaves have sufficiently dried, which can take anywhere from two weeks to a month, depending on the thickness of the leaves and temperature of the space.
Harvest sage in mid summer, as this is when it will be of sufficient size following a spring pruning. This perennial herb requires a thorough and heavy pruning (to between 8–12 in./20–30 cm from ground level) in March to prevent it from becoming too sprawling. Depending on the variety, sage can be quite vigorous. A thorough harvest in July—pruning off up to two thirds of the new growth—will allow the plant to flush and produce a second crop to be gathered in September and beyond.
The benefits of sage are quite diverse and I particularly like to make teas from the leaves, as they are not only tasty but help to soothe a sore throat for those of us who are a little chatty, or if we feel a cold coming on.
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