Wild Sage Versus Culinary Sage

Either wild sage or culinary sage look good as ornamentals, but if you want to safely eat sage stick to the latter.

wild sage, culinary sage - sage plant

Culinary sage is an attractive addition to your garden.

Photo by Fotolia/Pefkos

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I bought a small plant of golden sage, which has variegated leaves. The nursery worker did not know if this type is edible. The nursery also carried wild sage, which she said was not edible. Can I use the golden sage as an herb?

Pauline Boren
Scottsdale, Arizona

Sages that have variegated gold leaves (Salvia officinalis; 'Aurea') and those that are blushed with purple (S.officinalis; 'Purpurea') differ from regular culinary sage mostly in appearance, and are completely safe to eat. However, because some nurseries that sell edible plants as ornamentals sometimes use chemicals on them not approved for consumption, I suggest waiting for new growth to appear, then gathering the new leaves for use in the kitchen.

Some wild sages are toxic. For eating, it's best to stick with culinary sage (S. officinalis) or Spanish sage (S. lavandulifolia).