Clary Sage (Salvia Sclarea) has reached epic proportions in my garden this year. It’s always inclined to grow large, but this season, with all the rain, the plants are gigantic. The size only adds to their elegance.
The clary is blooming now. Sclarea, meaning clear, describes how the plant has been used for centuries as an eye wash. The decoction of the seeds is mucilanginous, so the old herbals recommend it to cleanse foreign matter from the eyes, improve vision and relieve irritation. If you haven’t got time to wait for a decoction, the herbalists recommended you simply put a seed into your eye to remove whatever debris was there. (Don’t try this at home.)
In 16th-century Germany, wine merchants infused clary with elder flowers and added the liquid to Rhine wine, then called it after another common name for clary, muscatel sage. It made the wine more potent and substituted for hops in beer.
Fresh or dried leaves from Clary Sage can be used instead of garden sage in cooking or dried and drunk as a tea. It has a balsam-like fragrance that some say goes well with lavender.
Add an infusion of clary to the bath or use it as an astringent to freshen the skin.
Maybe best of all, the clary sage is encouraging the bees and there are more now in the garden and more, I hope, to come.
Salvia verbenaca, aka Wild Clary or Wild Sage, is not as pretty, rougher, and is said to be found in Europe along ancient Roman roads, where soldiers dropped the seeds as they marched.