The summer has passed by without much time spent in our garden. It has been too hot here. Last weekend we finally spent some time in the soil and we are the better for it. Did you know that mycobacteria in the soil may help increase our serotonin levels? Is that why we feel so good planting and digging?
Always a work in progress, our garden is in a state of upheaval. Piles of gravel, burlap sacks, and plastic sheeting dot the landscape as we remove more grass for paths and garden beds. This past spring, we removed half of our wooden deck and put in two vegetable beds. The remaining deck covers the spot where we plan to put in a small patio and an herb garden, but those projects must wait for cooler weather and for the rain to soften the soil.
Our front yard suffers from the high temperatures and lack of rain. We are trying to move drought tolerant plants and natives to the front yard, so we don't have to water that area as much.
So everything is a mess.
But there are things of beauty in this mess. There are berries, flowers, and herbs. The one thing that always looks spectacular is the garden sage. It is always so green and abundant.
Another beautiful thing about our yard is the amount of bees who come to visit. We were especially thrilled this year to see an increase in bee visits after our backyard neighbors set up a hive of honeybees. The bees are a wonder to watch. I rely on honey whenever I feel under the weather, but there is evidence that the lactic acid bacteria found in bees’ stomachs (and also in honey) may protect us from some persistent pathogens.
As summer comes to an end, I want to celebrate our work and the bees’ work; to all of the progress we have made.
Sage Infused Honey
I want to share a technique to infuse raw honey with garden herbs. Honey can be infused with any aromatic herb such as sage, thyme, lavender, mint, rose petals, and horehound.
It takes little effort to extract the flavor and medicinal properties of an herb by letting it infuse in raw honey. It is best to use raw honey from beekeepers who are making efforts to protect our pollinators.
Infused honey is a wonderful way to preserve the flavors of fresh late summer herbs for winter time enjoyment. A jar of infused honey makes a thoughtful gift and is perfect with tea, hot toddies, biscuits, oatmeal, yogurt, or cheese.
I recommend either garden sage, salvia officinalis or pineapple sage, salvia elegans. Garden sage aids in digestion and soothes a sore throat. Be aware that garden sage can dry up milk supply in nursing mothers. Pineapple sage has a mild pineapple scent and may soothe anxiety. If you find pineapple sage in bloom, then use the vibrant flowers too. Please note: The salvia genus is large, and not all members are safe to consume.
Clean glass jar with lid to mix and infuse honey
Chopstick or spoon to mix
Clean glass jar to store the strained honey
Jar of mild flavored raw honey
Handful of herbs
1. Fill a clean jar to the halfway point with fresh herbs. For dried herbs, fill a third of the way.
2. Carefully pour honey over the herbs.
3. Use a chopstick or a spoon to push the herbs down below the honey and to remove any air bubbles. Cover with additional honey, if necessary.
4. Cover the jar with a lid.
5. Let the honey mixture sit in a sunny windowsill or in a cool cupboard for a week or two. Both methods are fine, but the warmth of the sun will extract the flavors and medicinal elements faster. Taste the honey after a week and see if it needs more time to infuse.
6. When the honey is fully infused, strain it through a mesh strainer into a clean jar. Straining the honey may take a long time.
Sage Honey Soda
This soda is earthy and refreshing, and may help soothe a scratchy throat.
If you don’t like soda, try substituting hot water for the sparkling water to make a soothing toddy.
Makes one soda
Pint mason jar or sturdy juice glass
Muddler or wooden spoon
Spoon for stirring
A teaspoon to measure
A few fresh sage leaves, I recommend either garden sage, salvia officinalis, or pineapple sage, salvia elegans
A teaspoon or two of raw honey, or sage infused honey (see recipe above)
¼ of a lime
1. In mason jar or juice glass, gently muddle the sage leaves into the honey.
2. Squeeze in the juice from the lime quarter and drop it into the glass.
3. Add an ounce of sparkling water and stir well.
4. Add ice and top with more sparkling water; stir gently.
5. Garnish with sage leaves or lime slices
Add before or after muddling: Fresh pear slices, blackberries (fresh or frozen)