Roll out the red carpet for pineapple sage, flaunting her cherry-red bilabiate flowers atop slender racemes. Numerous pollinators flock to her elegant flowering branches, seeking nutritious pollen, sipping nectar, and dutifully transferring pollen from anther to stigma. Pineapple sage’s entourage includes: butterflies, bees, ants and hummingbirds, whose penetrating beaks imbibe the precious nectar nestled deep in the recesses of her tubular corolla. She boldly flirts with frost, blooming long after most plants have sensibly finished with the business of flowering and fruiting. When pineapple sage does encounter the icy embrace of frost, she browns and withers, unaccustomed to his touch, as she heralds from the southern lands of Mexico and Guatemala.
Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans, Lamiaceae) is in the mint family, and very closely related (same genus) to garden sage, white sage and the ornamental bedding sages. It is a perennial shrub in warmer climates (zone 8 plus) and grown as an annual in temperate locales. Some of her human adorers in colder areas offer her refuge in their home or greenhouse over the winter, planting her back outside in the spring after the danger of frost has past.
Her flowers are edible and her pineapple-scented leaves are used as a pungent culinary herb. The flowers have a sweet and savory flavor and can be used to adorn most any dish; try them on salads, cakes, and salsas. Ice cubes fashioned from her blossoms are beautiful; try on these fancy-pants ice cubes to gussy up your favorite herbal iced teas.
Recipe for herbal flowered persimmon goat cheese:
- 8 ounces of soft goat cheese
- 2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary
- Handful of pineapple sage flowers, stripped from the stalk
- Half handful of calendula “petals”
- Kiss of honey and fresh wild persimmon pulp (peck, not smooch)
If you don’t have some of these ingredients on-hand, try freaking out. That always works out so well for me, and my family especially benefits. Alternately, you could use figs in lieu of the persimmon pulp, and any other edible flowers in place of the calendula and pineapple sage.