Garden Project of the Day: Sage Pear Herbal Tea

It’s getting seasonably cold here in Wisconsin, and the little flashes of green that remain in the garden are rapidly fading. One of the last plants that is still plugging along is the Sage, which often manages to stay green and lovely through Thanksgiving, when everything else in the garden except for the evergreens has long lost its leaves.

Before it is too late, I’ve been cutting as much sage and drying it in the dehydrator as I can while still leaving enough out there for Thanksgiving dinner. The house smells lovely, and I’ve been dreaming up ways to use the beautiful gray-green leaves while their flavor is still at its best. I think I’ve finally found a favorite! Paired with dried pears that I put up from our trees and a little candied ginger, the sage makes for the perfect tea to warm up with as the days get colder. I find the dried fruit and ginger add just the right amount of sweetness to the drink, but if you like a sweeter tea you can also add honey.

Michelle’s Sage Herbal Tea

Break the sage leaves and pear slices into pieces approximately 1/4 inch long. Mix together with the ginger pieces.

To drink, steep for 10 minutes.

This is enough for one small pot of tea, but you can (and probably should!) put together more than one serving at a time. You can store the dried tisane in an air tight container so you have it on hand whenever you’d like a cup. Enjoy!

As a side benefit, Sage tea is said to be good for your skin, gums, digestion, and memory. Some sources say not to drink more than two to three cups a day, as it can induce seizures or kidney damage in high doses. If you have any left over after your 2 cups, consider using the rest to rinse your hair. It’s said to be a good natural dye for covering grey hair!

Plants of the Prairie: White Sweetclover

Scientific Name: Melilotus albus

White Sweetclover is the rangy white flower in this picture with the small oval shaped leaves.

White Sweetclover is a biennial native to Europe and Asia. It is not a native here in Wisconsin, and in fact is considered one of the 30 most invasive plants here. There are probably between 100 and 200 white Sweetclover plants in prairie #3, most at the edge between the prairie and the school lawn. The plants grow close to one another, but don’t seem to form the type of thick patches that can really crowd out the natives – at least not yet. Like other clovers, the white Sweetclover is a legume so it fixes nitrogen in the soil. For this reason, farmers will sometimes include it in their cover crop mix. It could very well be that the farmer who owned the land before it became a school planted it here in between corn crops. I did not see any Sweetclover in the other 2 prairie patches at the school

According to, the entire plant is edible. Shoots and leaves of young plants can be prepared like asparagus and as salad greens, respectively. The best time to harvest them is as 1st year plants, before they’ve had a chance to flower. Once they’ve started flowering, they turn bitter. The flowers are edible and supposedly taste like vanilla. The plants are supposed to have a sweet/pleasant smell.

Here is my take on the edibility. The plants I tried were already flowering, so it was not surprising that the tiny bite of leaf out in the field was quite bitter and did not taste like vanilla. It was not bitter to the point of being totally unpleasant, though, and did smell faintly of vanilla and freshly mown grass. I would not seek it out for eating again as a salad green unless I can find it before it flowers.

I did pick a couple foot long sections of the plant to bring home and make tea. (Normally I would not pick flowers from a prairie patch that isn’t my own, but I make exceptions for invasives.) Dried, the plant had a very pleasant, sweet vanilla scent. I placed the dried leaves and stems in a teapot, poured water that was just below boiling temp over, and let steep for 5 minutes. When I opened the pot, the lovely vanilla scent was gone, replaced with something that smelled of fresh green beans. The tea was a little sweet and beany, not bitter at all. Again, not something I think I would seek out, but I also would accept a cup if offered. I might also try again with different water temperatures and steep times. I think a cold steeping might preserve the vanilla scent and flavor.

The stems of the plant do hold their sweet scent for a long time. I laid a few springs on my desk and days later when I sat down, their pleasant, sweet smell still wafted to my nose. While they aren’t the showiest flower around, they’d make a great addition to a mixed bouquet for their scent alone. And again, since they are an invasive here, I wouldn’t feel bad picking them.