22 May 2011

The Sunday Saturday Snap

Oh dear, this is not getting off to a good start, is it?  The Saturday Snap appearing on Sunday ...  Not that I've been slacking off, no no. I have been completely distracted by the balcony pigeons breaking through the defences and sitting on my bean and sweet corn plants (supposed to be planted out this weekend). Heartbreaking.  I have therefore been up a ladder with my drill trying again to close the gaps and Keep.Them.Out!

Onto finer things...  The Saturday Snap this week is continuing with the herb theme:

Sage flower

Sages are flowering everywhere at the moment, on my balcony, on the allotment, in the Veg Patch.  The flowers are so beautiful, how could I resist a quick snap? There's a lot more to sage than meets the eye, it being both a culinary and medicinal herb and greatly attractive to bees. Most people will know of common Sage (salvia officinalis) but there are many interesting varieties, pineapple sage and blackcurrant sage (with beautiful red flowers) to name but two. And now, a few facts:

  • Sage is an evergreen herb which you can harvest throughout the year as needed. Leaves picked in the spring (before flowering) have a mild, warm flavour; after flowering the flavour is stronger and more tannin. 
  • Buy any pot of sage in the spring, dig a hole slightly larger than the pot (best in a sunny spot outdoors), firm in and water. Very easy to maintain, it will thrive in either ground or container.
  • Container grown sage should be planted in a free-draining loam-based soil in a pot with plenty of room, such as a tall 'long tom' pot.
  • Sage will need watering in very dry weather but does not like being too wet in the winter so don't stand on a saucer if container grown.
  • Sage grows quickly and will get big within one season (given enough root room) but can be pruned back in the Spring if it gets too straggly. Don't prune in the Autumn as it may not recover from frost damage.
  • Despite pruning, sage can get very woody so replace every five years.
  • Beware! over use of Sage can have potentially toxic effects.

And, for my sister, Using Sage:
  • Traditionally used with chicken (think sage and onion stuffing), this herb also works well when cooked with potatoes, onions or squashes, such as pumpkin. I've also read that it goes very well when cooked with liver but, as I don't like liver, I'll leave that for those that do!
  • Sage butter is made by frying the leaves until crisp in either melted butter or a blend of butter and olive oil and this sauce can be used over gnocchi or ravioli stuffed with squash.
  • Medicinally, sage has antiseptic properties and is used to relieve sore throats and colds. Make a sage tea by infusing one or two leaves in a flask of hot water, strain and add some honey or lemon juice (to make it more palatable!).
  • Jekka McVicar, in her New Book of Herbs, advises that sage is known to be astringent, antiseptic, antispasmodic and a systemic antibiotic.  As well as being used to treat sore throats, it is also used for poor digestion, hormonal problems and to stimulate the brain!  
  • Jekka McV also writes that Sage arrests the ageing process - but, NB the last point in sage facts, above! 

Credit where it's due: a lot of these facts have been gleaned from one of my favourite books Grow Your Own Herbs in Pots, written by Debbie Schneebeli Morrell, a friend from York Rise (the street, not the flats) and from a little book I've just reviewed: Grow Your Food: A Guide for Complete Beginners. My review is in the post before this, also quickly found here.


  1. Sage flowers are a new one for me this year, the first ones I have ever seen were in a friends garden on a lovely red sage.

    I couldn't believe I'd never seen them flower before as have seen some lovely sage plants

  2. My research has uncovered a lot of very interesting sage plants and next year I'll be searching those out to grow in the herb garden, just for the flowers!

  3. Interesting post! I grow few herbs but this one I would grow for the flowers.
    Pigeons are such pesky birds aren't they! Flighty xx

  4. I agree, Flighty, they are pesky, especially when they want to move into my space and poop on my (edible) plants! I do love herbs but if you're growing them for flowers, chives is another good one - very dramatic pom-pom flowers! Caro x


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