Thought to have originated in Syria and then spread throughout the Mediterranean, sage was first used by the Greeks and Romans as a preservative. Salvia comes from the Latin salveo or salvere which means save or heal and in the Middle Ages sage was thought to prolong life, lift spirits, ward off toads, enable girls to see their future husbands, mitigate sorrow and avert chills! Sage tea was popular in medieval England & Europe and later the Chinese became so enamored with sage tea that they would trade several pounds of tea for sage. It wasn’t until the 1700’s that sage was introduced as a culinary herb. Colonial housewives kept sage in the kitchen plot for use not only in food, but for simple cosmetics and as a dark hair rinse for a healthy shine and the Shakers began selling dried leaves in 1821 and it soon became their best-selling herb.
Garden sage is the most widely known and used of the 800 species of the genus Salvia. It is one of the hardiest herbs and once established is tolerant of drought and thrives in hot dry soil however it does need good air circulation and is best renewed every 3-5 years. It should be cut back by half in spring in the north, but don’t prune hard after September even though you can harvest until the first hard frost. When harvested, the individual sage leaves should be dried on a screen, stored whole and then crushed by rubbing between the hands. Known for its gray-green, distinctively pebbly leaves with deep-throated lavender to purple flower spikes in midsummer, sage is not only lovely in the garden but also attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, adds fragrance, brightens containers, and may be used as a filler in country-style bouquets and dried flower arrangements. Garden sage may be grown from seed, but the cultivars, such as tricolor sage (‘Tricolor’), golden sage (‘Aurea”), purple sage (‘Purpurascens’) and German sage (‘Berggarten’) must be propagated by stem cuttings or division to preserve their distinctive characteristics.
Leaves of garden sage may be used fresh, dried or frozen and it has a pleasantly pungent, lemony flavor that enhances many foods such as cheese, pork and poultry, sausages and stuffing and is believed to make rich foods more digestible. A great addition to chicken soup, apple dishes or in an herbal vinegar with thyme and oregano, sage combines well with other Mediterranean herbs such as bay, rosemary, savory and marjoram plus is excellent for salt-free cooking. Fresh sage leaves can also be battered and fried as chips or fritters or threaded onto kabobs between vegetables or meat. The edible flowers have a more delicate flavor that adds a special tang to soups and salads. Medicinally, it is still considered a versatile herb by herbalist today and the tea may be used to settle stomachs, to soothe colds, as an antiseptic mouthwash and gargle, to temporarily control perspiration, to reduce blood glucose levels in diabetics, and to dry up mother’s milk. It is also recommended for oily skin as a deep cleansing mask or a facial steam, a color enhancer for grey hair, and a refreshing and deodorizing footbath.
Sage should be planted away from any member
of the Allium family – they don’t get along!
SAGE PECAN CHEESE WAFERS
1c shredded cheddar cheese
1/4c chopped pecans
1/4tsp rubbed sage
1/8tsp ground red pepper
1/3c butter in small pieces
Process first 6 ingredients in a food processor for 10 seconds. Add butter a piece at a time while processor is running until mixture forms a ball. Shape into long roll, refrigerate, and then slice ¼ inch thick. Bake at 350 degrees on ungreased cookie sheet 12-14min until edges turn brown. Makes 3 dozen.
APPLE-SAGE CHEESE BISCUITS
1 3/4c Bisquick
3/4c shredded cheddar cheese
1 chopped apple
1Tbs chopped fresh sage
1/4c melted butter
Stir together Bisquick, cheese, chopped apple and sage. Add water and form into ball. Divide into 12 pieces, roll into balls, and dip in butter and place in greased muffin tins. Bake at 350 for 15 mins.
SAGE CIDER SYRUP
Infuse 3Tbs fresh sage leaves in 1/2c water, then add 1c cider, 1/4c fresh lemon juice and 1/2c honey. Simmer ½ hour until thickened. Brush on pork tenderloin or chicken breast during last 20 mins. of cooking.
". . . I have given you all things even as the green herbs."