Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year and the beginning of Winter. We toast days past and make plans for the year to come…
One herb I associate with Winter is Sage. It’s in lots of recipes for cold weather foods, and drinking and gargling with the tea is an old remedy for cold weather coughs and sore throats.
Probably another reason I think of Sage as a Winter herb- Sage is practically evergreen in my garden. The leaves get small and curl in the frigid temperatures but they and their stalks keep standing, even in the snow. It reminds me the garden is still there, though out of sight asleep below the ground.
But many old herbalists thought of Sage as an herb of Spring. They taught that the leaves are at their best before the flower stalks rise, so late Spring was the proper time to eat lots of Sage and drink Sage tea if you wanted to ensure good health.
Sage was considered a magical plant too, said to give protection and grant wishes. From my perspective, all plants are pretty magical. They have abilities that are so beyond me (for instance, being able to regrow their whole body when cut down to the root)! Sage does feel special, though; the textured, almost-sticky leaves with their unique gray-green color, the beautiful aroma left on your hands after touching them. Even the feeling you get when you’re hanging out with Sage. It’s so peaceful.
So tonight, as Hawkeye and I celebrate the Solstice, I’ll have a big pot of water with some dried Sage simmering on the stove. We’ll make our Solstice wish and breathe in the soft green scent of the promise of next year’s garden.
Herbal balms are a simple, natural way to care for your skin. Similar to herbal salves which are made with oil and wax, balms also contain vegetable butter, making them extra rich and moisturizing. Balms can be used for both healing and beauty. I use them all the time for everything from daily moisturizer to gardening nicks and scrapes to seriously dry hands and feet.
Garden Sage is a great herb to use topically, alone or in combination with other herbs. Because Sage has antiseptic properties, it can be used to treat cuts and wounds. Sage is also antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, and has been shown to help with acne as well as easing the symptoms of eczema and psoriasis.
Of special interest to me as I’m hitting the big five-oh this year and spend so much time out in the sun digging in the dirt, Sage contains calcium, which aids cell renewal, and vitamin A, an antioxidant that provides protection against free radicals that damage skin cells and cause premature aging of the skin
<– This is Sage oil that’s just been strained, ready to be made into Sage Balm.
Hit me up with questions if you have them! I’m happy to talk balm anytime 🙂
When you think of herbal medicine, do you think of Sage?
Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis), the same Sage that’s on your kitchen spice rack, is antibacterial, anticatarrhal, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral. It’s thought of as “cleansing” and has been used throughout history to treat illness and wounds, but is also used as a tonic reputed to bring good health and longer life.
It contains minerals and vitamins that are known to have disease preventing and health promoting properties including potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, and vitamin A. Fresh sage leaves are a good source of vitamin C.
Sage stimulates cell renewal and increases blood circulation, which is why you’ll see it as an ingredient in skincare as it may help minimize facial wrinkles.
It’s usually recommended to gather Sage leaves before the plant begins to flower, but some believe Sage’s medicine is at its best when flowering. Personally, I love using herbs in flower in my medicine. If you don’t have garden space, Sage can be grown in a sunny spot indoors.
This time of year, you’ll see Sage in many recipes because it helps the digestion of fatty foods. Sage tea after the meal helps with digestion too, so try a cup if you’ve overindulged and are feeling uncomfortable.
Sage wine is an old remedy used to calm the nervous system that I think deserves a comeback. Add a fresh leaf to your glass of white wine to enjoy the aroma and flavor.
For a stronger, more medicinal wine, add 4 fresh leaves to a bottle of white wine, let steep for 2 weeks, then strain. If you don’t have fresh, use a tablespoon of dried herb.
December = Nothing to do in the garden, devouring each seed catalog as it arrives in the mail. No snow yet so I can still see some green out there including Chives, Lemon Balm, and Sage.
Garden or Common Sage (Salvia officinalis) has become one of my favorite herbs since I’ve been gardening. Partly because it’s so easy to care for, I admit (Low maintenance perennials are gold, Jerry! Gold!).
Sage is also really beautiful, and it’s a medicinal as well as culinary herb. If you think next I’m going to say I also adore it because bees love the flowers, you’re right!
Sage makes a tea that’s especially nice this time of year as it helps ease coughs and sore throats. Some people find it a little bitter, so add sweetener if you like.
Another way to experience Sage tea is in the bath. Sage alone makes me feel refreshed and clean but combined with Rose petals, the bath becomes more fragrant, luxurious, and soothing.
(Adding Pine needles to the Sage and Rose just occurred to me. That seems a perfect Winter bath blend to remedy the melancholy dark days.)
One last thought on Sage, from the old Latin proverb, “Cur moriatur homo, ciu calvia crescit in horto?”
“Why should a man die while Sage grows in his garden?”
I’ll be writing all about Sage this month, so hop on to our newsletter if you’d like to have the posts emailed to you. The signup box is at the bottom of this page. I often include extras in the newsletter that aren’t shared on the blog.
It’s a humid 95° and I’m taking a break, hiding indoors, catching up on computer work. We’ve been planting and watering, planting and watering, for about 6 weeks. I’m starting to get pooped but the garden is so exciting right now! Birds, bees, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, and a deer sighting! Flowers popping, green jumping up everywhere. Even a resident garter snake. And lots to eat! Makes me want to spend every minute there.
We’re harvesting Shiitake and Kale for market, and lots of herbs including Sorrel, Spearmint, Chocolate Mint, Chives, Garlic Chives, Tarragon, Oregano, and Sage (found an awesome recipe for Sage Blossom Pesto in my online wanderings today, btw).
Still a few things left to plant- a slew of Hot peppers and Basil mainly. I might pretend I don’t see them waiting for the next couple of days….
Hope you’re enjoying a break on this holiday weekend, too 🙂
After a long, cold, dark Winter, it always feels so good to throw open the windows, shake off the cobwebs, and do some serious Spring cleaning!
I’ve had this “cleaning itch” about my online store too. You may remember that I used to offer different fun things that changed with the season. This dwindled as I moved from craft fairs and farmers markets into selling primarily through retail shops.
Having a more limited, “fixed” set of bodycare products made it easier for me to make them in greater numbers (I still do almost everything by hand) while helping trim losses from spoilage (fresh and natural spoils so much quicker).
But the downside is, well, it gets boring! So I’m taking a cue from the renewal happening out in the garden and reinvigorating my crafting (and therefore, my life)!
Being back at a farmers market this year gives me a little space for experimentation. I’ve been collecting so many fabulous recipes- I can’t wait to share them with you!
Along with new recipes, I’m excited to be working more with a wider range of herbs, including Sage, Elder Flower, Linden Leaf, and Pine Needle. You’ll grow to love them as much as I do 😉
Everything will be available both in the Paradise City Herbal Online Store as well as at our booth at the Florence Farmers Market.
I’ll be doing a bit of remodeling in the store too, so please pardon the dust over the next couple weeks….
You might be tempted to beeline into the Wellness Department when looking for a remedy, but some of the best herbal medicine can actually be found hiding out in the Produce Department (or maybe in your own garden!).
Culinary herbs not only offer us nutrition (they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals) and help with the important job of digesting and assimilating our food, they also make good medicine.
Basil, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Garlic, Ginger, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, and Turmeric – herbs you already know and use – have many medicinal properties.
But don’t wait until you’re already sick! Adding more herbs to your diet is preventative medicine, and is as easy as using a slightly heavier hand in your favorite recipe. Taking my cue from herbalist Susun Weed, I add herbs by the handful instead of teaspoonful.
My cooking sure has gotten alot more interesting! Nice to know, too, that it’s got an antibacterial, antioxidant, and antiviral punch.
Of course, you might want to experiment slowly with this. But don’t be afraid to experiment! Using different combinations of herbs, as well as more quantity, has turned my everyday eating into gastronomic adventure 🙂
(When using fresh herbs, use about twice as much as you would dried.)
Another trick I learned from herbalist Kami McBride. She recommends keeping herb blends and single herbs in a shaker right on the table with the salt and pepper. When they’re close at hand, she reasons, you’ll use them more often. Worked for me!
When it comes to herbal condiments though, my favorite is pesto. I like Basil pesto best, but only when it’s made from fresh Basil. Not always an option outside of summertime here in Massachusetts.
So during the “off-season”, I raid the Produce Department for their fresh leafy greens like Arugula, Lettuce, Chard and Kale, and blend those up with whatever fresh herbs are available.
Cilantro and Parsley work really well. You could try Rosemary and Sage too. And don’t forget to add some garlic!
For even more gourmet flair, infuse your herbs into olive or coconut oil. Herbal oils make great jumping off points for lots of recipes.
Oil infusions are perfect for salad dressings, marinades and sautéing. They can also be used for massage or bath oils, and are the base for ointments, salves, and creams.
Made with dried herbs, your infused oil should have a shelf-life of about one year. (Oils made with fresh plants have a much shorter time before they spoil. You might even want to keep these refrigerated for the longest shelf-life possible.)
Basic Oil Infusion Recipe, Simpler’s Method
1 part dried herb
2 parts oil
(a “part” is whatever unit of measure you’re using- if it’s a cup, then the recipe is 1 cup dried herb to 2 cups oil, if it’s a teaspoon, it’s 1 tsp. dried herb in 2 tsp. oil)
Solar-Infused: Put herb in glass Mason jar and add oil. Cover and leave in a warm, dry place for 2 weeks (this can be in the sun, but doesn’t have to be). Shake daily. Strain herbs from oil using cheesecloth or muslin. Then add another batch of herbs to oil and let sit for another 2 weeks. Strain out herbs and bottle oil.
Double Boiler: Put herbs and oil in double boiler and bring to a gentle simmer. Keep on low heat for 1-2 hours. *Keep an eye on it to make sure oil doesn’t overheat and scorch. Strain through cheesecloth or muslin and bottle.
(I add the spent herbs to my compost pile.)
Try 2 parts Rosemary with 1 part each Basil & Thyme for your herb blend. This oil would be perfect for:
– Dipping bread
Hot Oil Treatment for hair & scalp
Massage Oil for aching muscles & sore joints
So jazz your taste buds and herb up your food! More than just adding flavor, it contributes to overall health and vitality, boosts immunity, and can heal illness should it happen to come down the pike.
(Written for my local food co-op, River Valley Market – Originally published in their Spring 2012 Newsletter)