Friday, June 6, 2008

Sage Advice

Greek culture associates the herb sage with wisdom. Arab lore links it with immortality. Synonymous with sage, salvia in Latin means to "heal".
The scent of sage is strongly evokes American memories of Thanksgiving. As the predominate herb in the turkey dressing, the splendid fragrance of sage fills the house that day. As we give thanks to the Almighty, we are renewed, our spirits healed.
So it is in the garden. Now, as the early-summer sun begins to softly bake the earth, the unmistakable scent of sage fills the air with memories of hiking in chaparral covered hillsides. It smells like vacation. Away from the city. Away from stress.

Salvia Clevelandii - Cleveland Sage- with long wands of golf ball sized indigo fading to lavender-florets threaded up the length of its arms dressed in grey-green fuzzy leaves: I imagine it to be a floral shish kebob for hungry fairies.
In the open garden, Cleveland sage begins blooming in April, but now through July is when it is its most spectacular. An ecosystem unto itself, it is quite normal to see bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds hovering around, sipping its rich nectar. How can one live with such spectacular company and not know contentment?
Once you taste the slightly softer taste of freshly minced sage leaves, you will not want to go back to dried flakes. A four inch plant will explode in short order to be a four foot giant. Larger if it is happy.

What makes a sage happy? Living in Southern California. They like what we have a lot of: sun. They don't need much of what we lack: water. They like good drainage, which makes them a perfect plant for a hillside garden where thirstier plants shrivel.

Need something to cook with your sage before Thanksgiving? A few tender leaves tucked under the skin of chicken, brushed with butter or olive oil, baked or barbecued, makes magic.

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