Sage is one of the most powerful medicinal herbs. Its positive effects on memory and brain activity are well known to communities all over the world.
For that reason, it’s very odd to find an herb garden that doesn’t contain sage.
Having said that, many herb gardeners concentrate their efforts on growing sage but forget about the importance of storing it properly.
You can easily end up with bland sage leaves if you don’t pay enough attention to the secrets behind storing herbs.
How to store fresh sage without losing its flavor and benefits? Learn the secrets below.
Short-Term Storage: Refrigerate
The best way to enjoy fresh sage leaves for a short period is by storing them in the refrigerator.
To do that, immerse the sage stems in a cup of water. Cover the leaves and the container with a plastic bag and put them in the refrigerator. They’ll remain fresh for one week before they start losing their flavor and color.
You can also refrigerate your sage directly in plastic bags after you wrap them in paper towels.
Before we discuss the two main methods of storing sage for the long term, you should know that sage is best consumed fresh.
Consuming fresh leaves doesn’t only mean that you’re getting the best flavor of sage. It also means that you’re enjoying all the health benefits this herb can offer.
But sometimes you may end up with a great number of sage leaves that you can’t consume within a few days, and therefore, you must store them properly.
Dried vs. Frozen
Two main methods are used to store sage for a long time: drying and freezing.
As with any other issue that concerns herbs, cooks and herbalists disagree on which way is better.
In general, drying sage is a better solution for the long term. It gives you more time to decide how you want to make use of the harvested leaves.
Some professional chefs also believe that fresh sage with its strong and invasive aroma should be tamed before being used in the kitchen, so they prefer drying the herb instead of freezing it.
Others fear that freezing sage leaves may darken their color, which makes them look unappealing in dishes.
On the other hand, since the process of freezing inactivates many biochemical reactions that occur in the leaves, it can preserve the substances found in sage more effectively.
Freezing leaves rather than drying them is a much better way to conserve their flavor and oils.
To decide between the two methods, you might want to determine why you’re storing sage.
For instance, I prefer to use fresh leaves to prepare tea, while I use dried ones for cooking.
Try both methods the first time and then you can decide for yourself which one is better. In the end, it all depends on your taste buds.
How to Store Fresh Sage for the Long-Term
There are a few simple tricks that can be used to dry and freeze sage:
Drying herbs is an ancient method of storage and preservation. It’s common in many cultures around the world.
Today, there are several ways to dry your herbs, and sage works fine with all of them. Here are two methods I prefer:
- The traditional method:
You can start drying your sage by finding a dark place in your house. Direct sunlight should be completely blocked from reaching your leaves.
Sage also requires a relatively high temperature to dry faster. Somewhere between 82°F (27.7°C) and 86°F (30°C) would be ideal. That’s why an attic can work well in this case.
You should maintain low humidity around your leaves. Using an AC or dehumidifier would be necessary if you live in a humid climate.
Finally, you need to keep the air circulating well in the space where leaves are drying. Moderate ventilation or a small fan would do the job.
The process takes about 14 to 20 days.
You can use a dehydrator to speed up the process of drying. This machine is usually used for drying fruits and making bacon, but today many herbalists use it to dry herbs quickly. (You can find affordable dehydrators on Amazon)
In most cases, the process of drying sage in a dehydrator takes about 1 to 4 hours.
Always check the stems. If they break easily, it means you have dried sage ready to be used.
Dried sage usually lasts for 2 to 3 years.
Freezing herbs is a simple and effective way of preserving your sage leaves’ flavor and components, but you need to learn some tricks before doing it.
Optional: Blanch Before Freezing
There’s an ongoing debate in the world of culinary and medicinal herbs over what we call “blanching.”
Blanching is a process by which herbs are immersed in boiling water for a few seconds before they are frozen.
This method prevents the leaves from getting darker over time in the freezer, but its effect on flavor is debatable.
Some assert that blanching can improve the flavor of some herbs, while others believe that the opposite happens.
Personally, I’ve never tried blanching sage leaves, but I usually blanch my basil leaves because they become a total black mess if I don’t.
So, I leave it to you to decide whether or not you want to blanch your sage leaves.
Freezing Sage Leaves
Start by gently washing your sage leaves and drying them afterward. Put them on a tray and let them freeze for a few hours in the freezer.
Divide your leaves into portions that you’ll be using each at a time. Transfer each portion into a plastic or eco-friendly freezing bag and put them in the freezer again.
As such, frozen sage leaves can last for a maximum of 8 months.
- Sage Cubes
Another method for freezing your sage is to put the leaves in ice cube trays and pour hot or warm water over them before transferring the trays to the freezer.
You can also make sage butter by simply pouring melted butter over the leaves instead of water.
I usually toss some sage cubes in my pot when I’m aiming for an earthly flavor in my dish.
The Final Word: Grow and Experiment
Now that you have learned the best ways to store your fresh sage, it’s time to execute.
Start by using a small number of sage leaves to try each method.
Most importantly, grow your sage at home so that you know you’re consuming the healthiest and freshest leaves available.