Herbs add flavor, color and scent to recipes and they are valued for their medicinal properties. One herb that can be planted in January in Central Texas is sage (Salvia officinalis). Salvia is derived from the Latin salvere, meaning “to be saved,” in reference to the plant’s healing properties. For centuries, sage has been used in teas, oils and other infusions to aid ailments such as sore throats or infections due to its natural antiseptic properties. It exudes a strong scent odor and has a slightly bitter, floral and astringent taste. Its soft leaves and intense aroma add a rich sensory experience.
Sage’s original habitat is the Mediterranean region, especially the coasts of Spain and Croatia. All species of sage share characteristics that make it ideal for a Central Texas garden. Sage is prolific and well-suited for our climate, hardy in both cold and hot temperatures, and drought-tolerant. It can be harvested throughout the year. All parts of the plant can be used.
In January, start sage indoors by seed or seedling in a pot filled with high quality potting soil. Typically, sage does best if grown from a seedling (find one at your local nursery).
Transplant the seedling into a pot 8 inches to 12 inches in diameter, watering immediately. Continue to water every few days, making sure the soil stays moist. Place the pot near a sunny window six weeks to 10 weeks before the last frost. Move it outdoors one week to two weeks before the last frost. When you transplant it in the ground, choose a location with well-drained sandy, loamy garden soil that receives six hours to eight hours of sunlight.
Sage grows to be a large, bushy plant between 12 inches and 30 inches tall. Though not afflicted with many pest or disease problems, sage is susceptible to root rot in overly wet soils and verticillium wilt, a fungus that causes yellowed blotches on the leaves that gradually turn to brown. To control root rot, rotate plants every three years and provide good drainage to beds. Verticillium wilt can be controlled by removing affected plants immediately, rotating plants every three years and avoiding fertilizers high in nitrogen.
During the first year, harvest lightly to ensure the plant grows fully. After the first year, leave a few stalks so that the plant can rejuvenate. If fully established, one plant can be harvested up to three times in one season.
Below is a winter soup recipe by Akshaya Chinapa Reddy of My Ayurvedic Kitchen, Sustainable Food Center’s guest teacher for “The Healing Power of Spices” class on Jan. 21. The recipe uses sage, as well as ginger, which stimulate appetite, aids digestion and eases stomach discomforts; turmeric, an antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory; and black pepper, which helps clear mild sinus congestion.
Butternut Squash Coconut Soup with Sage
2 Tbsp. sunflower oil or butter
½ chopped onion
½ inch fresh grated ginger
¼ tsp. turmeric powder
¼ tsp. cinnamon powder
1/8 tsp. ground clove
¼-½ tsp. black pepper
4-5 leaves of fresh sage
1 small butternut squash (cubed) (skin on if organic, peeled if not)
1 can organic coconut milk
1 cup vegetable stock
Salt to taste
Heat oil in a wide bottomed pot. Sauté onions until they are transparent. Add grated ginger and sauté for another minute. Add turmeric, cinnamon, clove, black pepper and sage leaves and let them roast for a couple of minutes until they release their flavors. Mix in butternut squash, coating well with the spices. Cook the squash until mushy, adding water as needed to keep it from sticking to the pot. Once squash is fully cooked the skin will soften quite a bit, making it easy to blend. Add coconut milk and cook until hot. Don’t boil the coconut milk, as it will separate. If using an immersion blender, blend the squash well until you achieve a smooth consistency. If using a regular blender, wait until the soup cools down, then blend. Return the soup to the pot and place over medium heat. Add salt to taste. At this point if the soup is very thick, add vegetable stock until the desired consistency is achieved. Turn off the heat just as the soup starts to boil. Serve warm topped with your choice of microgreens. Enjoy with a side of dinner rolls or toast.
— Akshaya Chinapa Reddy
New year, better you at Adelante event
Adelante boutique is hosting its first wellness event. Beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, NuSkin Pharmanex will give free antioxidant scans, ModFitness will talk about barre fitness and give away free places, Juiceland will offer free juice and the first 30 people get a gift from Outdoor Voices. A percentage of the sales will benefit Beyond Batton Disease Foundation. Adelante Boutique, 1206 W. 38th St., Suite 4104. adelanteaustin.com
New looks in glasses from Warby Parker
Warby Parker launched its spring line this week. Now you can find frames for glasses in rose and blue hues as well as tortoise shell. On Feb. 15, it launches its metal collection, and on March 14, it launches a collection of big, bold sunglasses. Find them in the store at 317 S. Congress Ave. or online at warbyparker.com.