It’s been awhile since I’ve featured any spices or herbs, so I thought I would bring this back and discuss Sage! Sage is like the wise elder of herbs. It’s no wonder the term is now synonymous with wise and experienced – the plant, just like so many other plants used in cooking, has been around for thousands of years. Originating in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor regions (again, just like practically everything else), sage is a member of the mint family, making it related to rosemary, Nevada’s state flower the sagebrush, as well as the psycho-actively popular Salvia.
There are many varieties of sage – many are more suitable as pretty floral house plants, as opposed to having actual culinary use. Some consider the Dalmatian Sage from Yugoslavia to be the best quality for cooking – but I think all non-flowering, narrow leaf sage plants are considered great options as well. Some of these include Spanish Sage, Greek Sage and even a Pineapple Sage – which, apparently is more pineapple than actual sage. But still – how fun is that?!
Sage is a perennial plant known for lending an intense flavor and being highly aromatic. It’s not as popular as it once was (except for that mind-erasing Salvia, I’m sure), but is still widely used to season more strongly flavored meats. It can also be steeped and used in various teas. Sage is also one of the main ingredients in poultry seasonings as well.
Introduced to American culture in the 1800’s, sage initially had more medical uses than in cooking. Varieties of sage were even grown and used in religious ceremonies by Central American Indians. Mmm-hmm – more Salvia, I bet. The name itself is of Latin origin meaning “to save or to heal” – and it has been used to treat everything from snakebites, to gas and bloating, excessive sweating and uterine bleeding (yech!). But the essential oils in sage have been proven to kill bacteria, making it effective for many types of bacterial infections.
I have used sage myself mostly with seasoning chicken and turkey. I’ve never had any uterine bleeding, so I can neither confirm or deny it’s usefulness there. I will start using for other meats, as well as stews – and perhaps anything that calls for chicken or beef broth? Would be interested to know how you use sage as well? Let me know – thanks!