November 2002 – Sage

A couple of years ago,

sage was designated the herb of the year. A t-shirt I purchased at a show had a beautiful drawing of a sage plant in great colors and went with lots of things. But, I think sage is an underused herb most of the year. It’s during the holidays when we roast a turkey or a goose, and the aroma fills the house, that sage comes into its own.

Sage, Salvia officinalis, is a traditional ingredient in poultry stuffing, but it shows up in other recipes too. If you purchase something called “poultry seasoning” at the grocery store, it contains sage. Many recipes for breakfast sausage or “Yankee sausage”, as I’ve seen it called, call for the addition of sage.

Sage is a strong herb and if used too generously, can be unpleasant. But, a light touch with sage does wonders for roast potatoes, pork roast and even an omelet. Sage is a flavorful addition to an herb butter. Sage tea is refreshing….. add a little honey since the sage is not sweet. Sage has been used as a topical antiseptic to cleanse a wound and to ease the pain of insect bites.

As with many herbs we are familiar with only as a culinary ingredient, sage has a long and varied history with any number of ancient civilizations. Dioscorides, the ancient Greek physician, was familiar with sage for its medicinal properties, as were the Egyptians who used it to increase fertility. In Central American the leaves of a variety of sage, S. microphylla, are infused to make a drink to treat fever. And, in Mexico, the mucilaginous seeds of S. hispanica are mixed with lemon juice, water and sugar to make a drink known as “chia”. S. miltiorhiza (known as red ginseng, because of its red roots) has been used in Chinese medicine since 206 BC. Continue reading “November 2002 – Sage”