Featuring Clary Sage
Being Biennial the seeds that I sowed last year have just come into flower. Exotic and beautiful they are well worth the effort. Having never propagated them before I discovered a few pitfalls. Slugs love their large soft leaves, especially in the first year, protect as best as you can. Last winter was mild so the plants needed no protection from harsh cold weather, however in a cold winter they will need protection from prolonged icy conditions. They dislike being waterlogged, which has been a challenge this spring. If you are growing from seed make sure they have dry and wet spells otherwise they will not thrive. They do best in full sun with humus rich but free draining soil. The leaves are large and strong smelling, the flowers are bi coloured, cream and lilac/blue or pink. In the right conditions they will self seed. If you are collecting seed to sow, the seed needs to be scarified to germinate, so winter sow or freeze 2 - 3 days before sowing. The leaves, flowers and seeds can all be used.
It is a bitter, astringent, warming herb, a bit like Sage but much stronger in taste so use in smaller quantities. Use young leaves in salads and fritters, leaves and seeds are good in bread and in a stuffing. The flowers are edible and used in salads or to garnish dishes. Young leaves are infused with Elderflowers to give a muscated bouquet to Rhine wines. I wonder how it would taste if added to Elderflower champagne? It was used instead of hops to produce a more intoxicating beer, and was thought to be an aphrodisiac.
One of it's common names is Cleareye. The seeds are mucilaginous, making a sticky paste which clears foreign particles from the eye. The leaves can be infused to make an eyewash to brighten tired eyes. Infusions can be added to bathwater to stimulate and invigorate. Used in soaps and cosmetics.
Medically it is used to relax spasms, aid digestion, stimulate the uterus, calm nerves, control nerves and help with the menopausal symptoms as it has an oestrogen stimulating action.
As an essential oil Clary Sage is used to treat grief and sorrow. It is reputed to induce vivid dreams, heighten meditation and improve focus.