Pining for Pineapple Sage
by Michele Brown and Pat Stewart of Possum Creek Herb Farm
Originally ran in the May/June 07 issue of The Essential Herbal Magazine
“Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?”
13th century quote
Salvia elegans in bloom Salvia is from the Latin “salvere” meaning to save, to cure or be in good health. The French agreed, calling it “tout bonne” or all is well.
The majority of historical information refers to sages in general. However, I see no reason that the notoriety shouldn’t run in the “family”. Romans held sage as a sacred ceremonial herb. It was thought to be beneficial for longevity, wisdom and memory. With a long history as a healing herb, it was said to cure snake bites, eye problems, infection, epilepsy, intoxication, memory loss, worms and intestinal problems? And beyond that, it was considered an aphrodisiac!
Did you know? One superstition was that the plant would thrive or wither according to its owner’s fortune.
Originating from Mexico, pineapple sage is a tender perennial, growing 12-30 inches tall and 2 feet wide.
Leaf: bright green, in pairs, more pointed than other sages; somewhat soft, fleshy and fuzzy, with pronounced veining underneath. Tinge with red as they mature. Bruising the leaves yields a sweet pineapple fragrance.
Flower: tiny, deep-throated, tubular, two-lipped, scarlet/ruby blossoms on slender green stalks in late summer; tangy, citrus-mint flavor. Loved by hummingbirds and bees.
Seed: tiny, dark brown, ovoid.
Stem: Square, turning woody after the 2nd year.
The plant can be propagated by lifting and separating clumps or taking semi-hardwood cuttings in the spring. The cutting should be striped of half its leaves and planted half the length of the cutting into the soil. Replace woody plants every 4-5 years.
Pests include slugs, spider mites, spittle bugs, root rot and wilt. For companion planting, it is said to improve the growth of carrots, marjoram, strawberries and tomatoes.
Because it is a tender perennial, it requires mild winters, wind and sun protection, weekly watering and temperatures above 30oF.
I have been successful wintering over my pineapple sage by heavy mulching at the end of the season (before the first frost).
Avoid harvesting the first year. Leaves and flowers are harvested fresh. Leaves should be harvested prior to blooming. Unlike other herbs, the flavor intensifies as it dries. Because the leaves are somewhat fleshy, it is prone to mold as it dries. Be sure to dry the herb in a warm, dry place with good air circulation.
Put it to Good Use!
Nothing smells any better than the sweet, soft pineapple fragrance that this herb imparts. What poor pineapple sage lacks in impressive history, it makes up in culinary delight.
The leaves can be used to flavor teas, chopped for use in chicken and pork dishes, cream cheese, jams, jellies and fruit salad. Leaves should be added at the end of cooking time. They can stand in for regular sage in almost any recipe. The flowers, with their citrus-mint flavor, can be tossed into salads and teas.
Pineapple Sage Tea
(Spring or bottled water is used so as not to overpower the delicate pineapple flavor with any water-related aftertaste)
1 quart spring water
½ cup packed fresh pineapple sage leaves
3 T honey
1 lemon or lime
Bring water just to a boil and pour over the sage leaves. Stir in honey and lemon or lime juice to taste. Steep tea for approximately 20 minutes. Bring to a boil and then strain into mugs.
Pineapple Sage Pound Cake
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
¼ cup honey (light wildflower or sage preferred)
2 T chopped pineapple sage leaves (small, new leaves have the most flavor)
3 T chopped pineapple sage flowers (optional)
1 t grated lemon peel
4 T well-squeezed, chopped pineapple
1 t baking powder
2 cups flour
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in honey. Add eggs one at a time, making sure to beat one minute after each addition. Beat in sage leaves, flowers and lemon peel. Stir dry ingredients together and add to butter mixture. Fold these together gently until just blended. Pour into 4 mini loaf pans (6”x3”x2”). Bake at 350oF for 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Banana Pineapple Sage Smoothie
¾ cup fruit flavored or vanilla non-fat yogurt
1 t honey
1 small banana
1/3 cup skim milk
1 T chopped pineapple sage
½ t ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
The leaves of pineapple sage may be used in potpourri or sachets. The blossoms are loved by hummingbirds, especially the ruby-throated variety and any other late season stragglers.
Pineapple Sage Face Mask
(for all skin types)
½ cup boiling water
1 T fresh pineapple sage leaves
3 T oatmeal
2 T honey
1 egg white
Pour boiling water over leaves and allow to cool completely. Strain and add oatmeal, honey and egg white. Mix until smooth and creamy. Spread mixture on clean skin and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Rinse well with warm water and pat dry.
Even if it does have to play second fiddle to its other family members, it is in a class by itself in the culinary arena. Just try a sprig in a jar of sun tea. One sip and you’ll be hooked and pining for pineapple sage!