Monday, October 17, 2011

Pineapple Sage




Here's why you should grow pineapple sage:

  • It's easy!
  • It smells wonderful.
  • It blooms in the fall.
  • The blooms are bright red.
  • The leaves are bright green.
  • The flowers (and everything else) are edible.
  • It tastes good.
  • It is pretty in arrangements.
  • It dries to an olive green color which is nice in potpourri and crafts.
  • Hummingbirds love it.
  • You can do all sorts of things with it.  Just check out the many links below; they're all good, I promise!

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Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans, syn. Salvia rutilans) is an attractive perennial from oak and pine scrub forests in the highlands of Mexico and Guatemala.*  Its light green leaves make a nice contrast with darker green and gray-green herbs in the garden.  For me, growth starts out kind of slow but then it picks up speed as the season progresses and the plant quickly reaches shrub status at 3 1/2 to 4 feet tall by summer's end.

Just when it can't get any more lush, tiny recurved flower spikes start to form, straightening a bit each day.  Finally, intensely red flowers burst from the buds as the spikes straighten completely.  It is usually October when this happens.

My plants die back to the ground and come back from the crown most years; I've even had them reseed occasionally.  Mulch is a good idea once frost hits.  Sometimes I start new plants in the fall just to be sure I don't have to buy it again next spring.

I have heard that it can take up to 4 weeks to root pineapple sage, but in my experience, a couple of days in a glass of water is enough.  Only basil seems to root more easily.  Here, if we get a few extra-humid days in a row, aerial roots will start to form along the stem!  You can cut the plant just below a node, put them in a pot, and you're good to go.  They over-winter in the house just fine, and will even flower in a pot on the windowsill.

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Cultivars
This year I grew a S. elegans cultivar, 'Golden Delicious' and was very happy with it.  I found it to be neater than the species.  It grew into a full, ball-shaped shrub, eventually reaching about 4 x 4 feet.  The color is chartreuse.

A few more interesting cultivars you might like to know about are:

'Frieda Dixon' (salmon-pink blooms)
'Scarlet Pineapple' (larger flowers and stronger scent)
'Tangerine' (rounded leaves and a citrus scent) **

I would love to hear from you if you've grown any of these. I've never seen them.

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How to Grow and Use Pineapple Sage
"An Herb to Know" by Rita Pelczar, The Herb Companion
"Pineapple Sage is a Beautiful Landscape Plant with Edible Flowers,"  HerbFest.net

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Pineapple Sage Cheese Ball 
from The Charlotte Herb Guild Cooks Again

2 packages cream cheese (8 ounces each)
1 large can crushed pineapple, drained well
1 tablespoon pineapple sage, chopped fine
1 small sweet onion, grated
1 - 2 cups pecans, chopped
leaf lettuce
fresh pineapple
pineapple sage blossoms

Combine cream cheese, canned crushed pineapple, sage and onion together with a fork.  Form into the shape of a pineapple on a large oval serving tray.  Cover in chopped pecans and use the top of a fresh pineapple for decoration.  Garnish the tray with leaf lettuce, fresh pineapple slices and pineapple sage blossoms.  Serve with crackers.

Doesn't that sound good?!  I think it will be perfect for a holiday get-together soon.  If you're interested in the herbal cookbook it comes from, click the link just under the recipe title and order it from the Herb Guild for yourself.  It is 322 pages of herbal deliciousness, ideas and instructions --everything from Basil Mushroom Quiche to Cashew Cardamom Balls to How to Plan and Host a Tea Party.  I've enjoyed my copy a lot.
 

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More Recipes (the Best of the Web)
GrapeSugar's Pineapple Sage Iced Tea
Lemon Verbena Lady for Herb Companion Pineapple Sage Jelly
Hitchhiking to Heaven's Peach Jam with Pineapple Sage
What's Cooking in America's Pineapple Sage, Ginger, Cranberry and Garlic Vinegar
Sweet Onion Tart's Chicken Tacos with Pineapple & Pineapple Sage Salsa
The Shoebox Kitchen's Pineapple Sage and Coconut Fleur de Lait
Tartelette's White Nectarine and Pineapple Sage Galette
Michelle Meals' Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Pineapple Sage
Foodie Road Show's Pineapple Sage Mini Pound Cakes
Savory Moments' Pineapple Sage Pound Cake
Tami's Kitchen Table Talk's Pineapple Sage Cupcakes
More Pineapple Sage recipe ideas from Chowhound readers

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More ways to use Pineapple Sage
Herbal Remedies using Pineapple Sage
Pineapple Sage Flower Dye
Pineapple Sage Soap





*Salvia elegans, Wikipedia
**HSA New Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown