Tuesday 8 December 2009


The other day when I covered my herb patch I had to cut back the biggest plants, among which sage.

In my experience, when it does not die a short while after planting, a sage bush is very prolific, and so mine has been. I have dried and saved a good few leaves, more than I will ever need in one year already, so I decided to take the latest crop to the office. When a colleague said: "And how I use it?" I thought I would make a post about sage.

From a quick research online, it turns out the genus Salvia belongs to the mint family (Labiatae or Lamiaceae). Salvia comes from the Latin for "to save", to represent the belief in the medicinal properties of the herb. Several saying go back to the Middle Ages, and there is apparently an English proverb that goes: "He that would live for aye, Must eat Sage in May".

Some of the properties attributed to sage are:
  • memory enhancer,
  • mouth & teeth care (I remember being told as a child to rub a sage leaf on my teeth to whiten them),
  • loosening mucus,
  • reducing perspiration,
  • anti inflammatory.
Too much sage oil may cause epilepsy, if I understood it right, and sage is not to be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
For culinary purposes it seems to be used mainly in Italy nowadays.
Sage is used to flavour chicken and pork, in stuffing i.e. Sage and onion, and in the typical Roman recipe saltimbocca alla romana (veal with Parma ham).
Fresh sage is used to make a sauce for tortellini or gnocchi burro e salvia: melting some butter in a pan with the sage leaves (without stir frying too long or burning the butter); finish with some grated parmesan. The same sauce can be put on tagliolini or tagliatelle (egg noodles), with or without some finely chopped walnuts. These are very quick and tasty recipes.

And how could I forget sage focaccia one of the most delicious recipes of the Genoese cuisine, which I have not been able to replicate so far (but I will try again, maybe tonight).

Garden Organic also suggest to try sage flowers in pesto, salads, soups and with fish dishes. They have a milder taste than the sage leaf.
And you, do you have any recipes to help use up my sage?

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