Aromatic and full of flavor, sage is a herb best known as a pairing to turkey. Those that grow sage may love the fragrance it brings to the garden but at some point, you will want to make use of this plant. Find out when to harvest sage and how to store it properly.
When to harvest sage? Grown year-round, sage is a wonderful addition to your garden. Not only are the leaves edible but the flowers are too. If you want a few sage leaves, you can pick them as you need them, although there will less available during the cold winter months. You can also harvest large batches of sage. Do this in the spring and summer. By late summer, sage will develop flowers. While you can still harvest after the plant is in bloom, the leaves won’t have as strong a taste. With large batch harvesting, you can cut up to a third of the plant. Just stick to newer branches as once you cut into the woody growth, new leaves won’t be able to grow out of it.
If you don’t plan on eating your sage right away, you can store it in a jar of water with the stems down for up to a week. You can also freeze it for later. Those with a large amount of sage may wish to bunch it up and hang dry it. Dry sage will last up to a year. Sage is a truly fragrant herb and with the right timing, you can enjoy it year-round.
Can you pick sage right away?
Sage is a perennial, which means it lives year-round. You can actually harvest sage as you need it but there are times when it is better to pick it.
Sage needs a bit of time to grow and develop so as tempting as it might be, you want to wait until the plant is at least a year old.
Leaves on plants provide an important function. They take sunlight in and through the process of photosynthesis, give the rest of the plant important nutrients.
If you pick too many sage leaves when it is still a young plant, the process of photosynthesis won’t be able to take place. Therefore, try to exercise some restraint and wait a year.
The root system of the sage plant also needs time to develop. Because sage is a perennial, it needs a solid root structure to survive the winter and too few nutrients won’t allow this to happen.
How do you know when your sage is ready to harvest?
While you can harvest sage at any time of the year, it is at its most flavorful in spring and summer. Towards the end of summer, the sage plant will start to grow flowers so you should try to harvest the leaves before this happens.
While you can still use sage leaves when there are flowers on the plant, or after the flowers are done blooming, the flavor will be weaker. If you prefer that rich sage taste, be sure to harvest before flowers develop.
Furthermore, while the sage plant will live year-round, it does enter a period of dormancy. As fall approaches, there will be fewer leaves and therefore if you pick sage leaves, new ones won’t grow back to replace them.
Again, if you have a mild winter and there are still sage leaves available, you can pick them but don’t expect there to be an abundance of opportunity.
What happens if you don’t harvest sage?
Absolutely nothing will happen if you don’t harvest sage! You only harvest the leaves of a sage plant, and sometimes the flowers, and if you don’t use these, they will simply stay on the plant and continue to grow.
The one caveat is that you should get into the habit of pruning your entire sage plant once a year. Do this in early spring to give your sage plant time to grow through the summer.
Regular pruning allows the sage plant to grow bushier and stay healthy. If you forget a year, don’t worry and simply trim it back the following spring.
How to harvest sage?
When you are ready to harvest sage, think about what you want to use it for. When you want a few leaves for a dish, you can simply go to your plant and pinch off a few leaves.
You can do this year-round, so if you are ready for a scrumptious turkey dinner, even though it is in the fall, there should be some sage leaves ready for your use.
An alternative to harvesting a few sage leaves is to harvest a large quantity. You may want to do this right before the plant flowers so that you can dry the sage and have it available year-round. Some people also use sage for smudging purposes, in which case you will need a large quantity.
Just be sure that you never harvest more than a third of the plant at one time. If you cut more than this, it won’t be able to gather enough nutrients to continue growing.
Start by using a pair of clean scissors or pruners. You want to cut new growth and not old wood.
When you cut into the old wood of a sage plant, the part closer to the base, that part won’t be able to grow new sage branches anymore. Instead, look for the softer branches and only cut those.
If you time this process correctly, you should be able to get two or three harvests of sage. Older sage bushes will be fuller, so you will have a larger yield.
For harvesting, be sure to stop before fall. This will allow the plant to grow enough to survive the winter and emerge from its dormancy in the spring.
It’s best to harvest sage in the morning when the leaves have a higher moisture content. Wait until the morning dew is gone but not too late for the sun to become hot.
Should you wash sage after harvesting?
You should wash sage before you consume it but not right after harvesting it. While you should wash sage to get rid of any bugs or dirt, once you do so, the leaves will start to break down.
Can you eat sage immediately after harvesting?
Yes, you can eat sage immediately. Many people prefer to simply snip off a few leaves that they need as they are cooking.
If you pick sage but don’t need it right away, it is best to place the leaves with their stems in a jar of water. Leave it in the fridge or on your countertop for five to seven days.
Just be sure to change the water every day and get rid of any sage leaves that are starting to turn yellow or have signs of mold.
You can also freeze sage. Simply wash your leaves and place them individually on a tray to freeze. Once they are frozen, place all the leaves together in a freezer-safe bag.
You can also chop your washed sage and place it in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, transfer the cubes to a bag and place them in the freezer. Both these methods allow you to use only the sage you need.
How many years can you harvest sage?
While a sage plant will continue to grow and remain healthy for quite a while, its optimal growing period is three to four years. After this, a larger part of the plant may become woody and the leaves won’t be as flavorful.
Furthermore, harvesting an older plant won’t result in as many leaves regrowing. Therefore, older plants are best for picking a few leaves at a time.
If you love sage, be sure to continually plant new plants every three to four years so you always have a fresh supply.
Can you eat sage flowers?
Remember how we recommended not pick sage leaves in the plant’s first year, well the same does not hold true for the flowers. In fact, you can actually pick the flowers and eat them at any time.
Sage flowers are incredible and have a sage taste to them, although milder. Sage flowers are edible and you can use them to garnish dishes or even add them to savory dishes. Sprinkle sage flowers over a salad for a gorgeous and fragrant dish.
How do you dry sage?
For those that love the taste of sage, you may want to harvest large batches and dry them. Start by gently rinsing your sage but be sure not to damage it.
Bunch your sage together and tie the stems together with string. Hang the bunches upside down in a cool, dark place with proper airflow.
Check your leaves to ensure they are completely dry. When done correctly, sage leaves will keep up to a year.
Whether you want some flavor for your turkey stuffing or an aromatic kick to a stew, sage is a handy herb to have available. Wait until spring or summer, just before the plant flowers, for the most flavorful sage leaves.