Sage can come on strong and even sharp but you will still find it pleasant.
Heated sage becomes more assertive. It is a good match for rich and fatty meats such as goose and pork and sausages.
Use sage leaves fresh in salads and cooked in omelets, fritters, soups, yeast breads, marinades, meat pies, and poultry stuffing. Sage can also stand up to anchovies and pickles.
Sage has an affinity for other herbs as well; match it to rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, and bay leaf.
The Italians use sage in dried-bean dishes and meat dishes, particularly with calves’ liver and veal. The Germans use sage in eel dishes, and the French cook sage with pork, veal, and some charcuterie.
The English use sage in stuffing and blend it with cream cheese and cottage cheese to make sandwich spread. The Chinese add it to mutton and tea. The Greeks also add sage to tea, and in the Middle East sage is added to salads.
The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Arabs all used sage as a curative tonic. The Romans may have launched sage on its culinary career. Saltimbocca (salta in bocca—which means “leaps into your mouth”) was a Roman favorite still popular: a whole sage leaf is sandwiched between a veal scallop and a slice of prosciutto, skewered, and sautéed in butter with wine.
Sage strengthens in flavor when it is dried. So consider it one of your more pungent pantry herbs and add it discreetly when dried or ground.
Sage can be found year-round at your farm market. Flowering sage is available towards the end of summer.
Sage is a perennial subshrub with woody, wiry stems. It grows from 12 to 30 inches (30-76 cm) tall. Sage leaves are long and narrow (some can be broad) and are grayish green with thick and prominent veins. Sage is indigenous to the northern Mediterranean coast.
Common sage—with green to grayish-green leaves—has a lilac blue or white flower. Purple-leaved sage has a blue flower.
Sage has been consumed for thousands of years. It was first used to help heal wounds and the Greeks and Romans believed it could prolong life. The generic name for sage is Salvia which is derived from the Latin word salvus which means “healthy.”
Choose. Select sage leaves that are fresh and crisp looking, not wilted. Young, green leaves will be less pungent than older, gray leaves. Purple sage will have more spicy tones than green or common sage and will be less pungent.
Store. Fresh sage leaves can be kept in a paper towel in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days. Dried sage should be stored in a sealed container in a cool, dark place. Ground sage leaves can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Serve. Use sage fresh or cook with liver, beef, pork, veal, fish lamb, poultry, duck, goose, artichokes, tomatoes asparagus, carrots, squash, corn, potatoes, eggplants, snap bans, leeks, onions, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, oranges, lemons garlic, cheese, lentils, and shell beans.
Lay fresh sage leaves on pork roast before cooking or make slits in the roast and insert the fresh leaves. Mince leaves and use them in the breading for fried chicken. Deep-fry sage sprigs and use as a garnish for roast meats.
Dried sage is more pungent than fresh sage and should be used sparingly.
Flavor partners. Sage has a flavor affinity for apples, butternut squash, chicken, duck, lima beans, olive oil, onion, nutmeg, pork, potato, prosciutto, pumpkin, sausage, tomato, turkey, veal, and white beans.
Combine sage with bay, caraway, cutting celery, dried ginger, lovage, marjoram, paprika, parsley, savory, and thyme.
The botanical name for common sage is Salvia officinalis.
Here are some other sages for culinary use:
Tricolor sage (S. o. ‘Tricolor’): mottled green, cream, and pink leaves with blue flowers and gentle flavor.
Black-currant sage (S. microphylla): broad, deep green leaves with purple-pink flowers, has a rich black currant scent.
Green sage (S. fruitcosa): large, gray-green leaves, strongly aromatic; use sparingly in cooking or to make tea.
Clary sage (S. sclarea): broad pebbly deep green leaves with bitter, balsam-like flavor; use for garnish or to make fritters.
Variegated golden sage (S.o. ‘Icterina’): gold and green leaves with a mild flavor.
Pineapple sage (S. elegans): long leaves with red flowers in autumn, pineapple scent.
Purple sage (S. o. pupurea): purple-green leaves with a musky, spicy aroma.