What is Sage?
Sage is a potent and versatile herb sought after through history for both it’s pungent flavour and it’s medicinal properties. It’s a great choice for hearty, savoury meals to keep you warm through the winter months.
What does Sage taste like?
Sage has a strong pine like aroma and taste with earthy herbal notes which penetrate through. It can be reminiscent of undergrowth and wet leaves with musky undertones.
What is Sage used for?
The distinctive herbal taste of sage makes it an excellent flavouring for hearty and filling dishes like winter stews and roast meats. Its pungent flavour helps to cut through the rich and fatty ingredients. Sage is the characteristic flavouring of some of Britain's favourite foods such as the Lincolnshire sausage. Sage and onion stuffing is the go to accompaniment to the classic British Sunday roast dinner, where the powerful sage can play off of the multitude of delicious flavours. Sage pairs well with other herbs like basil, bay, chives and oregano as well as with spices such as paprika, and pepper.
Here are a few delicious recipes using sage:
- Classic Roast Chicken with Sage and Onion stuffing
- Butternut squash and Sage Pasta
- Apple, Cheddar and Sage scones
Names and Origin
Sage is a short perennial, evergreen shrub growing up to 2 feet in height, it’s recognizable due to its soft oval leaves which have a layer of white woolly hairs. These hairs, known as trichomes, give the leaves a distinctive velvety appearance and texture.
The word Sage originates from the Latin word salvus, meaning safety or healing, which is likely due to the many medicinal and spiritual properties attributed to the plant in Ancient times. It’s binomial name is Salvia officinalis, the officina was the traditional storeroom in a monastery reserve for medicinal ingredients. It’s use as both a medicinal and culinary herb go back thousands of years. It was considered a holy herb by the Romans and became a common component of their religious rituals and worship. Prior to our understanding of germ theory, when bad smells were believed to be the source of ailments, sage was among the herbs burned to drive away evil odours and spirits.
Sage is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region near what is now Turkey. It’s use as a medicine and as an ingredient in food made it popular across Europe and by the middle ages it was widely grown across the continent. Today the largest producers of sage are Turkey and Albania respectively.
The powerful flavour and warming sensation of sage has made it a staple flavorant in winter stews, becoming so essential in British cooking that it is even referenced in traditional ballads like “Scarborough fair”, alongside the other important herbs rosemary, thyme and parsley.
The spiritual and medicinal history of sage can still be seen today, with some people using the essential oils or whole plant extracts as a treatment for minor ailments. The burning of sage to purify a space is still common practice in many new age spiritual communities as well as in the indigenous populations which originated the techniques.