I have started an herbal study, choosing Sage, Salvia officials, as my herbal ally. Today, I started looking at my task list as outlined by The Kitchen Herb Wife and set out into the autumn garden to take a few photos and collect some fresh Sage before the frost we expect early in the week.
1. Consider your ally in its dormant state. If you can see/visit it – sketch what you observe or take pictures. Does it need pruning/sheltering from possible frosts? Does it still have leaves or fruit attached? Are you going to grow it yourself? Where are you going to source it from? Are you going to buy/beg plants/grow from seed?
My sage is not dormant yet (end of October – nights averaging in the mid 40′s) but it was good to take a look now to see what changes the freezes will bring. This specimen is about 5 years old, planted in a raised bed on the SE side of the house. It does not get a lot of sun as we live on a hill near the forest.
2. Obtain some dried form of your ally and take yourself a tea once a day for one week and notice taste/flavour/effects on you.
3.What did ancient herbalists use your ally for? How did they prepare it? Check Culpepper, Galen, Avicenna, Hildegarde of Bingen, 16th, 17th, 18 and 19th century writers. (Hint: Maud Grieve and Matthew Wood give good summaries of older herbalists). Don’t forget Scudder, Ellingwood and King on Henriette Kress’ and Paul Bergner’s websites.
4. If you are going to plant your ally, prepare the ground and decide on and plan your planting scheme and plant your seeds. Take careful note of how long seeds take to germinate in what growing conditions and how long they take to acquire two “real” leaves. Pot on.
5. Research modern/current usage of your ally. Check if there is any difference between UK/US/European usage (or TCM/Ayuvedic/Western)
6. If your ally has bark, consider removing bark from prunings and either drying/tincturing, make tea or syrup or doubly infuse in oil. (Make sure the bark is suitable for internal ingestion first!).
7.Spend time with your ally during its dormant state – ask what it would like to teach you over the coming year.