Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Sage of Autumn

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, 
drink the drink, eat the fruit,
and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.
                                                      --Henry David Thoreau

Over the years, I have developed a preference
for certain flower colors by season.
In the winter, I like white or chartreuse-green flowers.
In the spring, I prefer yellow ones, but not red.
To me, red in the spring landscape is jarring and boorish.
Like clanging bells, reds interrupt the soft chimes of more gracious colors;
 they seem out of place among the delicate emerging greens.

In the summer, I like bright orange or pink blooms;
they seem very happy, even playful.
 I also favor blue or purple because when things are blazing hot,
they keep their cool.
Generally, yellow or red flowers are not on my list for summer.
In early summer they might be appreciated,
but by August, most look too hot-headed
and "worse for wear" as my mom used to say.

Yet when autumn arrives--
the color I really, really like is red, in all its shades.
There is something about bright red that balances the cooling fall temperatures
and so cheers me right up.
Red in autumn is the equivalent of an afternoon cup of tea, a warm blanket,
or a fire crackling in the fireplace.

And so it is that one of my favorite autumn reds is that of pineapple sage.
Pineapple sage, a member of the mint family,
 is green all summer;

but when fall arrives,
bright lipstick-red blossoms paint the ends of long green stalks.
For several years, I had pineapple sage growing in a front bed,
and in fall, its red blossoms were very vibrant.
Here's a photo from back then. The red flowers are just beginning to form:

For more photos of pineapple sage blooms,
search "pineapple sage" in Google Images.
There are lots there that show the pineapple sage blossom up close,
and one can really get the feel for how intense the red color is.

We removed that bed a few seasons ago,
as it was looking scruffy most of the time--
our affection for the bright red pineapple sage notwithstanding.
But this year, I came upon a pineapple sage plant at a local nursery.
It has gotten tall and the leaves are attractive,
but it probably won't bloom from lack of sun.
 I'm watching it, hoping it will.
If it does bloom in its current location, it will be very exciting.
While I was researching pineapple sage, I was surprised to learn
that the plant, leaves, and flowers are edible.
All these years, I thought it was strictly an ornamental.
But I found a site called the "Backyard Patch Herbal Blog,"
written by Illinois herbalist Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh,
that includes a number of recipes using pineapple sage leaves and flowers.
Here's the link for her blog on pineapple sage:

I'm looking forward to trying her pineapple sage pound cake recipe.
So it as Thoreau once said:
Breathe the air, drink the drink,
and in the case of pineapple sage, eat the pound cake.
That's how we resign ourselves to the influence of the earth here in the Shire.

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