This section is from the book "Culinary Herbs", by M. G. Kains. Also available from Amazon: Culinary Herbs, Their Cultivation, Harvesting, Curing and Uses.
Clary (Salvia sclarea, Linn.), a perennial herb of the natural order Labiatae. The popular name is a corruption of the specific. In the discussion on sage will be found the significance of the generic name. Syria is said to be the original home of clary, but Italy is also mentioned. The presumption is in favor of the former country, as it is the older, and the plant was probably carried westward from it by soldiers or merchants. In England clary was known prior to 1538, when Turner published his garden lore, but in America, except in foreigners' gardens, it is rarely seen. It has been listed in seedsmen's catalogs since 1806.
The large, very broad, oblong, obtuse, toothed, woolly haired, radical leaves are grayish green and somewhat rumpled like those of Savoy cabbage. From among them rise the 2-foot tall, square, branching, sparsely leaved stems, which during the second year bear small clusters of lilac or white showy flowers in long spikes. The smooth brown or marbled shining seeds retain their germinating power for three years.
The plants thrive in any well-drained soil. Seed may be sown during March in drills 18 inches apart where the plants are to remain or in a seedbed for transplanting 18 inches asunder in May. Clean cultivation is needed throughout the summer until the plants have full possession of the ground. In August the leaves may be gathered, and if this harvest be judiciously done the production of foliage should continue until midsummer of the second year, when the plants will probably insist upon flowering. After this it is best to rely upon new plants for supplies of leaves, the old plants being pulled.
In America, the leaves are little used in cookery, and even in Europe they seem to be less popular than formerly, sage having taken their place. Wine is sometimes made from the plant when in flower. As an ornamental, clary is worth a place in the hardy flower border.