Harvesting Sage

progenitoAugust 8, 2008

I haven't gotten a very helpful answer in the herb forum for this, so I'll pose it again here with another question.

I have a lot of sage that seems fairly bushy, two plants. What is the proper technique for pruning and harvesting? Can I have, like, a series of steps? Is it better to pinch or use scissors?

Then after I have a bunch of sage leaves, I would love to be able to dry it, grind it up and then put it into a spice shaker with the label "common sage" on it. Is it a good idea to dry sage? How do I do it? How long does it take?

I've done several searches on this forum for answers, but I just can't find the right word or phrase that will actually be remotely helpful for me. THANK YOU PEOPLES

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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

I dry sage all the time. It's very forgiving!! LOL
I just cut off entire branches (scissors), bundle a few together, put them in a brown paper bag with leaves down, stems up. Fold the top of the bag over catching the stems.
Then I pin it up on my outdoor clothesline to dry. The bag keeps dust and "critters" off of it.

When completely dry the leaves will be crunchy. You can just sort of roll the stems between your hands to get all the leaves off. Then I put them in a strainer and rub them through it to make smaller pieces (hence the name Rubbed sage). I really should try my food processor I guess, but I kind of enjoy sitting on the porch sniffing sage!! LOL

Put the finer 'ground' sage in a container and store out of the light.

Note: I do oregano and thyme the same way as far as drying. They don't need the rubbing process.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 4:15PM
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greenhouser(Middle TN Zone 6)

dgkritch: How you keep them from getting moldy in the bag with no ventilation?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 5:12PM
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Thanks sweetie, lots of laughs to you too.

I don't quite understand what you mean when you say "fold over to catch the stems". I imagine you mean take the stem side and fold it or roll it so that the stems, rather than pointing up out of the bag, point into the outside of the bag.

And what exactly is a sage 'stem'? Surely you don't mean to clip the poor thing until it's a stub? Will it regenerate? How long does the drying process take?

What about basil? Same thing?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 5:24PM
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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

A paper bag allows enough air that I never have problems with mold. I try to harvest when it's very warm outside so it dries quickly.
I've also picked individual leaves off and just laid them out on paper towels to dry inside.
You can use a dehydrator or even the microwave, but I'm cheap and like the "free" option!

Yes, I clip individual stems from the plant down very low (about where the leaves still look really good). But, you should only harvest about 1/3 of the plant at a time. Let it grow awhile longer, then harvest again. I have 2 sage plants that are about 5 years old, 2 1/2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. In our temperate climate, they have no problem surviving the winter outdoors.

The "folding" thing is hard to describe, but simple to do.

The idea is to have the leaves/stems sort of hanging inside the bag. So, I just hold the stems, put sage into the bag leafy end first (still holding the stems), then fold over about an inch or so of the bag and bending the stems along with it so they stay hanging. Clear as mud??


    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 6:16PM
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Thank you Deanna, you are as beautiful as you are wise.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 9:39PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

My sage here in Z6 will die and not return next year. Its a type I start from seeds and it only grows through summer at about a foot tall and a foot wide. I cut it all down, pluck off the leaves (without stems), and simply dry in in a dehydrator. Once dried, I rub it nn my hands into a soft cottony fluffy texture. I store in vacuum sealed canning jars and it keeps quite well, just like my dill weed.

I would have answered you in the Herbs forum, but too much hostility was going on there so I left a while ago.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 9:42PM
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sudzy(5b IL)

I have two four year old sage plants that show NO signs of dying out!. I trim them all the time. After flowering this spring (gosh they were gorgeous too) I cut them right down to the ground. They are now back up to a foot and a half. They are growing in heavy clay soil catching all day sun and seem to be thriving. Also, take off a nice looking small cutting from the bottom, pot it up ...and there you go, you've got yourself another plant. :) Sudzy

    Bookmark   August 9, 2008 at 3:13AM
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I live in zone five and grow herbs in containers just outside the kitchen door. Let me share my lazy secret - I rarely dry sage (or rosemary) at all. I just let them freeze in their pots, then when I need some I go out and pull the dried leaves off the plants. Both are so woody that they retain their flavor and aroma all through the winter. Rosemary will winter kill, but sage generally comes back in the spring.

In early spring I'll trim it up and it's ready for another year. As Sudzy says, sage will flower in subsequent years. Really bad winters might kill it off, in which case I'll replace the plant and start the cycle again.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2008 at 8:43AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

As I said, there are DIFFERENT TYPES of sage. I alos strat rosemary from seeds, and that too is quite dead the following year. Mine has never produced any flowers. On the other hand, I have 2 year old thyme, that flowered this year, and is quite bushy. It was also started from seeds.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2008 at 12:13PM
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