What we grow - Biodiversity

Sage

HISTORY AND ETYMOLOGY

Common sage (Salvia officinalis) is a small aromatic herbaceous perennial plant with delicate “lip shaped” flowers belonging to the Lamiaceae family. The generic name (Sage) derives from the Latin “salvus” (Save, safe, well, healthy) an ancient name for this group of plants with alleged medicinal properties, in fact, even the specific epithet (Officinalis) indicates a plant with medicinal properties real or supposed. The scientific name of the species was defined by Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), also known as Carl von Linn√©, Swedish biologist and writer considered the father of the modern scientific classification of living organisms, in the publication “Species Plantarum” of 1753. The Gauls believed that sage could heal all diseases and that it would help to eradicate fever and cough. For the Romans, sage was a sacred plant and the harvest belonged to a select few who, for the occasion, wore a special outfit and made sacrifices. Used as cicatrizant in the Middle Ages, in the seventeenth century a basket of sage leaves was instead a precious commodity of exchange, which was even exchanged by Dutch merchants.

DESCRIPTION

The height of these plants varies from 20-40 centimeters (Sometimes 60 centimeters), they are perennial and woody at the base, they are gray-tomentose with an aromatic smell. While in warm areas it is an evergreen shrub. The roots are hard and robust. The aerial part of the stem is very branched and woody at the base. The leaves are cauline in opposite arrangement with petiolate lamina and lanceolate shape, with a felt consistency to the touch and have a greyish-green color and a scent of characteristic freshness. The inflorescences are axillary. The flowers are hermaphrodite (Flowering from March to May, sometimes until July). The fruit has a more or less ovoid shape, with very small dark brown seeds.

USES AND PROPERTIES

The active and beneficial ingredients are contained in the leaves which are rich in flavonoids, vitamins B1, C and essential oil (Tujone), which gives them the typical smell and taste. It helps the digestive organs, stimulating the production of bile, and antispasmodic for the stomach and intestines, because it acts as a smooth muscle relaxant, therefore, useful in case of irritable intestin, spasms of the digestive system or against menstrual pains, from which leaves are obtain essential oil. It has antiseptic and balsamic properties, and is ideal for intestinal infections and those of the mouth and as a healing agent for wounds, and to treat colds, coughs, sore throats and fever. Flavonoids, on the other hand, exert an estrogenic action, and in fact sage has always had a reputation as a plant for typically female disorders. Sage essential oil is an excellent antioxidant, counteracts free radicals and slows down the formation of wrinkles and tissue degeneration. Due to its known healing properties it can also be used on pimples and small abrasions. Although  its Mediterranean origin, the presence of sage to flavor meats of various kinds has been consolidated for centuries in almost all the culinary traditions of Europe, but also in the Middle East. To preserve sage leaves, there are two methods that can be employed:

  • Freeze the leaves: Frozen aromatic herbs take up little space in the freezer and retain the aroma quite well;
  • Drying: Useful to use to make decoctions and herbal teas, or you can grind the dried leaves and put them in a mix of spices or flavored salts.

CULTIVATION

Sage is a plant that loves the heat and prefers sunny positions, in fact it is better to plant it away from shading elements, very resistant to frost, but not for long times. It does not fear drought, it fears situations of prolonged soil or air humidity. It adapts to any type of soil, faithful to its Mediterranean origins, suffering only from water stagnation and too compact and clayey soils. Sage has a good nitrogen requirement, and if we want it to produce a lot of leaves, we need to add compost or manure annually. In winter, especially in the northern regions, it is advisable to protect the root system of this medicinal plant with a straw mulch, in order to protect the roots from freezing. Like many perennials, it is useful to periodically operate with pruning that regulate the plant, twice a year. Before spring, deadwood branches and leaves are removed, while at the end of flowering it is pruned more decisively, removing most of the green branches, renewing and keeping the shrub healthy and productive. Sage leaves can be harvested throughout the year, as they are always green and their aroma is also available during the winter, unlike other plants such as mint and basil which have a much more variable concentration of aromatic oils depending on the season and not withstand cold climates. Therefore, when needed, just remove the leaves, without detaching the lignified branches, because they are slower in reforming.