Sage is a versatile herb and it works well with other herbs in the kitchen such as thyme, rosemary and basil. It is commonly used in stuffing mixtures for roast poultry such as chicken, and game, but may also be used as an accompaniment to roast lamb or pork dishes. The sage plant is native to Mediterranean regions such as Greece and Italy, although it has naturalised well in the UK and will even survive our harsh British winters.
Sage has been used as a healing herb since the Dark Ages. The ancient Greeks and Romans used sage as an antidote to snakebites and brewed into a tea to relieve headaches. Common sage has a strong flavour and should be used a little at a time (too much sage can overpower a dish). Sage can be added to potato and vegetable dishes as well as used in meat recipes. It also works well with cheese; why not try adding a few leaves to your cheese on toast? The delicate flowers are also edible and may be added to salads. There are several varieties of sage, including purple sage. This is a much prettier herb to grow, however its flavour is not as pungent as common sage.
Sage can be easily dried and crumbled into dishes or used fresh. Fresh sage is much less bitter than dried sage but both versions have a strong flavour and should be used sparingly. Sage is rarely used raw, as its flavour is more desirable when cooked. Therefore, unlike other herbs, it should be added to a dish early on in the cooking process in order for the more palatable flavour to develop. Sage is perfect for stews and casseroles as it withstands lengthy cooking times.
Using Sage in Cooking
There are many more uses for sage than are commonly practised in the UK. When barbecuing or grilling meat and vegetables, try adding the leaves of sage to boost the flavour and aroma of the food. The woody stems can be tossed over the smoking coals to release a beautiful aroma around the area.
Sage leaves are easy to harvest. Simply cut off the leaves with scissors or pinch them off with your fingers. Sage is best used fresh, although the leaves can be placed in a plastic bag and frozen to use throughout the winter months. The leaves can also be dried, simply harvest them on a dry day and store in a warm, dry room until they are crumbly to touch. Then store the crumbled leaves in an airtight container and store out of direct sunlight.
Sage is a strongly-flavoured herb that benefits from slow cooking in dishes such as casseroles, soups and stews. It is commonly used as an ingredient in stuffing mixtures but may also be used with other herbs such as basil and thyme, or used to accompany a wide rage of meats including pork and game. Sage has a pungent flavour and should be used sparingly; it may be used fresh or dried, but adding too much sage can make your dish taste bitter.