The soft, greyish-green leaves are what is used, not the woodier stalks or stems.
Sage retains its flavour very well, in fact, when dried. You can buy dried sage either “rubbed”, which means it’s a bit coarse, or finely ground.
In the UK, sage has mostly been used with pork, or as a stuffing with onion for turkey and chicken. However, the Italians do a lot of amazing things with it, pairing it with butter in sauces for pasta, frying it with potatoes, etc. Sage has a quality about it (technically, “astringent oils”) that stands up to or almost cuts through grease.
It is a perennial evergreen shrub in temperate countries, and will often even survive winters in Canada. If you live in a temperate climate where winter isn’t severe, grow sage near your kitchen door as it can be cut year round. If you live in a country such as Canada, don’t bother, as you’d need a shovel to find it in the winter.
The plant can grow up to 31 inches (80 cm) tall. After it flowers, cut it back a bit to encourage new growth: younger leaves will have a more delicate taste. It can be propagated by seed, or by stem cuttings.
Generally, you add sage at the start of cooking as its strong flavour stands up well to cooking, and will permeate through other items it is cooked with.
Try adding some Sage to peas and beans, and even to mashed potatoes;
Try it in any dish that involves eggplant and tomatoes;
Try crisping a few fresh leaves in oil, butter or fat, and then serving on top of pasta or a pork chop.
Very good with goose, duck, pork, and offal.
Thyme, savoury, rosemary, poultry seasoning
12 fresh leaves = 1 tablespoon fresh chopped = 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon dried, powdered sage = 1 gram = .035 oz
Fresh, picked sage leaves will keep refrigerated for a week in a plastic bag. Or if you have a bunch with stems still on, store them in a glass of water in the fridge – change the water every other day.
To freeze safe, chop, stuff into an ice cube try, cover with water, and freeze. When frozen, tip out into a freezer bag. Should keep for at least 3 months on freezer. When thawed, use for dishes that involve cooking the herb, as opposed to using it for a garnish or fresh.
Sage is a member of the mint family. It is thought to have originated in Northern Mediterranean regions.
The Romans brought sage to Britain. The Greeks and the Romans used sage mostly as a medicinal herb — in fact, it wasn’t until the 1500s that it became popular to use sage in everyday cooking.
In Medieval England, it was used medicinally, as well as in tisanes and in beer.
Literature & Lore
Sage growing in a Medieval garden was thought to bring prosperity. It was also taken as a sign that the woman ruled the house.
The food writer, Elizabeth David, did not like sage: “Of that very English herb sage I have very little to say except that… it seems to me to be altogether too blatant, and used far too much; its all-pervading presence in stuffings and sausages is perhaps responsible for the distaste for herbs which many English people feel.” She liked dried sage even less: “It deadens the food with its musty, dried blood scent.” [Elizabeth David. Summer Cooking. 1955.]
Sage’s Latin name, “salvia”, comes from the Latin verb, “salvere”, meaning “to be in good health.”
Damrosch, Barbara. Ways to use the power of sage in the kitchen. Washington Post. 11 May 2011.
Fearnley-Whittingstall, Hugh. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s sage recipes. Manchester: The Guardian. 1 July 2011.