Sage has been used in medicine for thousands of years; it’s actually this use that has given the herb it’s name! Salvia (not to be confused with saliva!) is sage’s Latin name, derived from the Latin “salvare”, which means “to save” and from which we get the words “safe” and “salvage”. Considered the guardian of herbs, sage is used in traditional Chinese and European medicine because of its disease preventing and health promoting properties. Sage is often added to “Thinkers Tea” because it contains a compound that improves concentration and attention span. Interestingly this compound, called ‘thujone‘, is also found in absinthe! While sage retains its curative reputation, over the last few centuries it has become increasingly popular in cooking.
Native to the northern Mediterranean coast, this shrubby member of the mint family has long and narrow, light grey-green, velvety leaves and a powerful flavour. It is described as slightly peppery with a touch of mint, and a little like eucalyptus, cedar, and lemon. Because of its pronounced flavour, sage balances meats and other rich or heavy ingredients like cheese and cream. (Did you try our Bacon & Sage Wrapped Chicken a few weeks ago?)
Sage has different popular uses in countries around the world…
- In America, sage is associated with turkey and stuffing
- In France it is added to cured meats, sausages, and pork dishes
- In Italy it is often paired with veal
- In Britain it’s used in traditional meat dishes
Unlike most herbs, sage is robust and should be added at the beginning of the cooking process. But don’t add too much, as it can easily overwhelm a dish!
Liked this? Check out the ‘Learn Your Herbs’ post about chives.