In the summer, common garden sage produces purplish-blue flowers that you can eat. You can cut the fresh flowers and use them as a decoration on a cake, use them to make herbed vinegar, pour hot water over them for tea, or dry and store them to use in the winter, when fresh flowers are rare.
There are several varieties of the plant called sage, but the one you most often find flavoring your breakfast sausage or in your turkey stuffing is common garden sage, or salvia officinalis. According to Health on the Net Foundation, this perennial herb is native to the Mediterranean. In Medieval Europe, people used the plant to strengthen memory and promote wisdom. Sage's essential oils are thujone and borneol. Washington State University's extension office says that in large doses, thujone might cause convulsions, but the compound breaks down when cooked.
The purple, and sometimes white, flowers of the sage plant appear in the summer. Traditionally, herb gardeners try to prevent their herbs from flowering by cutting back the leaves frequently. If you are trying to get your sage to bloom, just allow it to grow and observe the plant daily once the buds emerge. The best time to cut the flowers is right before they peak, when the flowers are partially, but not entirely, open. Cut flowers in the morning after the dew has evaporated.
The North Carolina University Extension Office recommends removing pistils and stamens from flowers before eating to remove the pollen, but with a small flower like sage, this can be very challenging. If you suffer from pollen-related allergies, consider eating just one flower at a time to reduce your chances of having a serious allergic reaction.
You can use sage flowers as a garnish with pork, chicken or meat dishes. Arrange one or two blooms on top of the finished dish. Place sage blossoms along with other edible flowers on a frosted cake. For tea, pour hot water over the flowers and steep for three minutes. Use the flowers along with leaves to make flavored vinegar, stir them into yellow cake batter or dry them for use later on.
Although sage flowers themselves are safe to eat, some insecticides that may be sprayed on them are not. Be sure you only eat the flowers of plants that were grown for human consumption. Also be 100 percent sure the flower you are eating is sage, not some look-alike flower that may not be edible. The best source of sage flowers is from your own garden, with plants you grew yourself. With any new food, start slowly. Sage flowers are safe, but anyone can have an allergic reaction to a new food.
Valerie Webber started out as a technical writer in 1994 and transitioned into journalism in 2004. Her work has appeared in “The Gainesville Times,” “The Fauquier Times-Democrat,” “Merial Selections” and “SIDEROADS” magazine. Webber is also certified by the American Council on Exercise as a group fitness instructor.