Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pineapple Sage

One of my favorite fall plants is Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans). In late September and early October it puts on quite a show with it's ruby red tubular spikes. The hummingbirds, soon to depart, love it and I'm sure they appreciate this last minute nectar source as most other plants are fading away. The fragrance, released when you crush a leaf, is indeed just like crushed pineapple.

It needs sun to flower nicely and will form a nice 3'x 3' clump. It has an airy, open-branched habit and will need watering during dry spells. It will wilt when deprived of water but will quickly bounce back after watering.

I've grown Pineapple Sage just about every year that I've been gardening. I couldn't find it one year at any of the nurseries and I really missed it that fall. It is not reliably hardy in north Alabama and I only recall one year when it returned after a mild winter. If I were more frugal and had more patience, I would try to root pieces for next year. I've heard too that you can dig it up, pot it and keep it over the winter. Maybe I'll try that this year.

I've also not been very adventuresome in the kitchen with the leaves of pineapple sage. I have tried in tea (delicious!) but have not cooked with it. I came across this web page which has recipes.

The plant is native to Mexico and Guatemala. In Mexico, it has traditionally been used to treat anxiety. There have been no scientific studies to back this although preliminary reports find that it has been effective an an antidepressant in treating mice. Now my question is - how can you tell if a mouse is depressed?

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