Sage has a peppery taste and is often used for flavouring rich and fatty foods, especially as a marinade. In German cuisine, it is often used to flavour sausages and in Italian cuisine, to make ‘Burre e salvia’ where sage is sautéed in olive oil and butter until crisp, then served with pasta. Sage (Salvia officinalis) has soft, pebbly, narrow, oblong, gray-green leaves with a slightly bitter, resinous aroma.
Sage, which originated in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor, gets its name from the Latin salvia, meaning “to heal,” referring to the medicinal value of the plant. Today, this ancient seasoning is most important in the Mediterranean, especially Italy. Sage tea was popular in sixteenth-century England and sage ale was also brewed. The pungency of sage works well to cut the fattiness of meat, so it complements goose, duck, and pork. In Italy, sage is often paired with rosemary in seasoning game, poultry, pork, and veal roasts. Crispy fried sage leaves are a typical garnish for fritto misto, an Italian dish of mixed deep-fried foods. Sage has a particular affinity to poultry; in the United States, it shows up in poultry seasoning and stuffing. Fresh pork breakfast sausages are seasoned with sage and marjoram. Sage works well with starches such as potatoes, dried beans, and split peas. Dried sage, which maintains much of the character of fresh sage, is usually found as grayish green leaves with a wooly, springy texture.
The leaves and seeds of chia sage or Mexican sage (S. columbariae) have been important in the diet of desert-dwelling Native Americans for their mucilaginous qualities. Greek sage (S. triloba) is quite potent and sought after in Greece and Lebanon. Central American sage varieties have sweet, fruity fragrance and include pineapple sage (S. rutilans), peach sage (S. greggii), and fruit sage (S. dorisiana). Some of these are used for teas; others are grown for their large, brightly coloured flowers. Also native to Central America is the only hallucinogenic species in the huge Lamiaceae (mint) family, sacred sage (S. divinorum), which was cultivated by Central American Indians for use in religious ceremonies. Variegated and purple sage are also available.
Make paglia e fieno (straw and hay) by tossing half spinach and half egg fettuccine with cream simmered with sage, nutmeg, matchstick-cut prosciutto, and green peas, and topping with grated Parmesan cheese.
Add sage to browned butter and toss with potato gnocchi, cheese ravioli, or pumpkin ravioli.
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Herb