Sage Advice

How can a man grow old who has sage in his garden?

– Ancient Proverb.

Description:

Picture of Potted Sage

Sage

Salvia Officinalis

Sage is an aromatic perennial herb.  The flavour is slightly sweet and peppery.  It is native to the Mediterranean region, but now grows all over the world.

Sage is most commonly used with rich, fatty meats such as pork or duck. In North America, it is traditionally used to flavour the dressing (or stuffing) served during a Thanksgiving turkey dinner.  It can also be used to make tea, flavour cheeses (English Derby), fish, beans, and vegetables.

It has always been considered to have health giving benefits.  It has been thought to promote long life, and it has been connected with success and fortune.

The leaves are grayish green in colour and have an oblong shape with a pebbly texture. The leaves have a silvery bloom (fuzzy) covering.  When the plant matures, spikes of blue or purple flowers, appear.  The stem is tough and woody.

There are many different varieties (cultivars) of sage.  Some are just ornamental and not really useful as a cooking herb.  Others do provide unique flavours and colours.

Leaves are widely available throughout the year.  Fresh, dried whole or ground leaves are sold in most supermarkets.

Growing Sage:

Sage is a fairly easy plant to grow.  It is a winter hardy perennial.  In the garden, it will grow to a height of 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm).

If you plan on planting from seed, the seeds will take between 10 and 21 days to germinate.  The plant will reach maturity in 75 days.  If you are in a northern climate, the seeds need to be started indoors during very early spring.

Alternatively, it can be easily propagated through stem cuttings.

Sage needs to be planted in a sunny location.  It will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions if the soil is well drained and rich in nitrogen.  It is ideal for planting in pots that can then be kept near your kitchen door for quick access.

Harvesting and Storing Sage:

The following steps should be taken to harvest sage for winter use:

  1. Cut the stems on a dry day when flowers are fully open.
  2. Tie the stems together and hang in a well ventilated room.
  3. When dry, remove leaves from stems and seal in wide-mouthed jars.

If you don’t want to dry them, the leaves could also be frozen.

Cooking with Sage:

Sage has used as a common cooking herb for thousands of years, and its use has spread all over the world.  Although it is commonly used to flavour meats, it can be found in many unique recipes.   The following list is just a small sample found from some popular food blogs:

Sage Tea:

  • pour a cup of boiling water over two teaspoons of fresh sage leaves,
  • steep for ten minutes
  • add honey to taste.

Health Benefits:

Picture of Sage Leaves

Sage

If one consults enough herbals…every sickness know to humanity will be listed as being
cured by sage.
Varro Taylor, Ph.D. (herb expert)

Sage has a long history of use as a medicine.  There are many claims about its healing properties, but very few provide clinical evidence.  Some clinical studies have been performed, showing that it is effective in some areas:

  1. Effects on the central nervous system:
    • Improved memory retention (extracts have even been studied for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease).
    • Increased mood and cognitive performance.
  2. Anti-inflammatory effects:
    • Chemicals (ursolic acid) in the leaves showed strong anti-inflammatory properties after topical application.
  3. Anti-microbial properties:
  4. Anti-oxidant properties:
    • Anti-oxidants help to prevent cell damage.

(Source: Drugs.com)

Varieties:

There are many different types of sage.  The following list describes some of the most interesting.

Pineapple Sage:

Salvia Elegans: Pineapple sage has deep red flowers, and when the leaves are crushed, they smell like freshly sliced pineapple.

Honeydew Melon Sage:

As the name implies, honeydew melon sage has the scent of honeydew melon.  It looks similar to pineapple sage, and has deep red flowers.

Russian Sage:

Perivskia Atriplicifolia: Russian sage is not really sage, but a member of the mint family.  It is mostly used for decoration because of its long narrow strands of lavender or blue flowers.

Golden Sage:

Salvia officinalis ‘Icterina’: Golden sage is very similar to common garden sage except that the leaves have jagged gold edges.  It is used both as an ornamental plant and as a cooking herb.

Berggarten Sage:

Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten’: Berggarten sage comes from Germany and is more adaptable to cooler climates (Berggarten is German for mountain garden).  It is shorter and more compact than common garden sage, and it flowers less frequently.

Nutritional Information:

[nutr-label servingsize=’1 tsp (700 mg)’ servings=’1′ calories=’2′ totalfat=’0.089′ satfat=’0.049′ transfat=’0′ cholesterol=’0′ sodium=’0.077 ‘ carbohydrates=’0.425′ fiber=’0.282′ sugars=’0.012′ protein=’0.074’]

Sage contains the following vitamins and minerals:

  • vitamin B6 – 19?g (1% daily value)
  • vitamin A – 41 IU (1% daily value)
  • magnesium – 3mg (1% daily value)

(Source: Wolfram Alpha)

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Posted in Cooking, Ingredients, Spices
4 comments on “Sage Advice
  1. This is a post packed with all sorts of great information! I am intrigued by the Honeydew Melon sage – I’ll have to seek that one out. Thanks so much for linking to my gougere recipe.

  2. Janet Stewart says:

    I am really surprised at the variety of sage. I have grown the regular sage in my garden for years. It is a plant that no matter what kind of gardener you are you cannot kill it. I use it mostly for chicken. I put the leaves under the skin on the breast of a chicken. I also put whole sage leaves on top of pork chops when cooking to add more flavour.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for the comment.

      Using whole sage leaves on your pork chops sounds like a good idea. Do you use any other seasonings in combination with the sage?

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