Sage is another easy addition to the herb garden and an excellent choice for Texans who experience hot, dry summers because it is drought tolerant. It doesn’t mind moisture either, provided the soil is sandy and fast-draining. I’ve had success growing mine alongside basil, which requires more frequent watering, and it doesn’t appear to suffer at all. It also seems to benefit from full sun exposure during the morning and early afternoon hours, while being shaded from the more intense afternoon sun.
Sage is a wonderful herb that pairs well with many other herbs and is a main ingredient in store-bought poultry seasoning mix. We use it several times a week to season everything from mashed potatoes to chicken, and roast to vegetarian stew. Sage is a member of the mint family and has a very strong flavor that does not diminish with cooking; therefore, use it sparingly at the beginnings stages of cooking to allow the rich flavor to permeate the dish and meld with the other flavors.
Growing sage is easy and requires no special soil or fertilizer. It is also a fast grower, so much so that I harvest it every time I harvest the basil – about every two weeks. Like basil, sage appreciates regular grooming, which allows it to grow bushier. Sage is frost tolerant and can be grown as a perennial here in Texas. As such, the rule of thumb to follow is: trim only 1/3 of the plant at any one time. I usually cut less than that and I have more than I can use.
One tip I learned is to spray the plant down with water the afternoon or evening before trimming to wash any debris away and give the herbs time to dry off before trimming and dehydrating. At first, I tried washing my herbs after picking them and they were difficult to dry that way. This method works much better. Another tip: harvesting the sage first thing in the morning ensures the highest concentration of oils in the leaves as the oils withdraw into the stems and branches throughout the warmth of the day.
Now that the leaves are trimmed, I’ll bunch the leaves up stem to stem and tie them together with hemp cord and hang until dry – or about a week. Sage holds its flavor well when dried, although I would suggest leaving the leaves whole and crumbling before use.