Sage is a commonly used herb with velvety green leaves. The sage family has over 700 species in it! Salvia officinalis, or Common Garden Sage, is the name of the sage commonly used for cooking. Prairie Sage is a different variety used by some Native American tribes for cooking. In Europe, sage is made into teas, tinctures, and salves as a traditional medicine to treat heartburn, bloating, congestion, and minor skin inflammation. During the Black Plague, sage was used as one of the components of Four Thieves Vinegar, a blend of herbs which was supposed to ward off the plague.
Sage contains vitamin A, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, folic acid, thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and fiber, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, thiamin, and copper. Sage contains many essential oils that help make other nutritious foods more flavorful and is rarely eaten in a quantity to gain significant nutritional value.
Buying & Storing
Sage leaves can be purchased fresh or in several preserved forms. Fresh sage leaves should be whole, soft green, and free of discolored or black spots. They should have a fresh smell without any rotten or moldy smells. After purchasing, rinse sage leaves in a sink under a gentle stream of cold water. Repeat as necessary to remove all soil and garden pests. Gently pat dry with clean towels. Wrap sage leaves loosely in a damp paper towel and place in a plastic bag or airtight container in the refrigerator.
Sage can be dried fairly easily. Bundle 6-7 stems and hang in a dry, dark place with good air circulation. Once dry, you can remove leaves from stems until they are broken down into small pieces or store whole in an air-tight container for up to 1 year. Sage leaves can also be frozen. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet until completely frozen then stack in a plastic storage bag for up to 1 year.
Seasoning – Sage has a strong herbal flavor that is earthy, slightly peppery with hints of mint, eucalyptus, and lemon. Pair with bay, caraway, ginger, paprika, parsley, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, fennel, garlic, and black pepper.
Raw – Tie in bundles with other herbs to flavor soups, stocks and stews. Add fresh sage leaves to cocktails and teas. Finely dice and mix with sliced crusty bread, butter, onions, celery, fresh sage, chicken stock, and egg to make classic sage stuffing.
Sauté/Fry – Fry whole leaves in oil; crumble; and sprinkle over pasta or roasted squash with browned butter, black pepper, roasted nuts, and parmesan cheese. Sauté bacon; fry leaves in bacon fat; remove and reserve leaves; sauté pork chops with apple and onion slices; and top with crumble fried leaves and bacon. Add sage to ground pork with black pepper, brown sugar, red pepper, and thyme for classic breakfast sausage. Add finely diced leaves to sautéed sauces or mixed vegetables.
Preserve – Mix dried sage leaves into honey, maple syrup, oil, or vinegar (try long lasting oils like grapeseed or different vinegars like apple cider vinegar or balsamic). Allow to infuse for several weeks. Layer sage leaves with salt and pepper for sage salt. Dice leaves; blend with salt, rosemary, and thyme into butter (try experimenting with other flavors!); chill; and enjoy slices melted on vegetables, meats, and bread.