Want a better memory? Got a sore throat or a gurgly tummy? This fuzzy little leaf is just the pick-me-up you need – Sage.
What Is It?
Sage is an herb in the same family as mint. There are many varieties, both edible and ornamental, and flowering and non-flowering. It ranges in size and color. However, most of the sage that you eat consists of silvery green, elliptical leaves with a minute layer of down on the underside. You can buy it either dried or fresh, though it is never actually eaten raw.
Sage is extremely fragrant and has a savory, peppery taste that perfectly accents creamy or meaty dishes. Fresh sage is milder and earthier than dried leaves, which are more pungent and cutting.
Sage originates from the Mediterranean and Balkan regions and is still most common in dishes from these areas. Long considered one of the four staple herbs (along with parsley, rosemary, and thyme, lest ye’ were wondering…), sage has been used for thousands of years. The earliest Western physicians (including cool peeps like Galen, Pliny the Elder, and Dioscorides) extolled the virtues of sage for memory, digestion, and healthy blood. The Romans even called it “salvia” for its salving and healing powers.
The Ancients Were On to Something:
While most ancient forms of medicine have since been dismissed–no bloodletting for this gal, thanks–it turns out that there is a scientific basis for the benefits of sage.
Like its cousin mint, sage has antiseptic and antibacterial properties and can, indeed, soothe ulcers and sore throats when consumed as a tea or gargle. Good to keep in mind for cold and flu season.
Sage really does calm the stomach and aid digestion, one reason why you’ll often find it in fatty dishes, like duck, which tend to be taxing on the tummy.
And most amazingly, scientific studies uphold the classic theories that sage improves memory. Scientists are even hopeful it might help stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
In a more mystical sense, sage, especially the desert variety, is used almost like an incense to cleanse spaces and create spiritual room for better, brighter things (something to keep in mind when you’re toxic roommate finally moves out). However you opt to use sage, it’s fragrant aroma and unique flavor will make a great addition to your kitchen…and your life.
Be a Sage in the Kitch
Sage has been naturalized around the globe, so it’s easy to get your hands on it at the local grocery store.
If you get fresh sage, look for a bunch without bruising or wilting and remember to tear away the spines of the leaves before adding them to your cooking. Fresh sage will keep in the fridge for a few days. Dried sage can stay in a dry, cool spot in the kitchen for a year before it really starts to lose its flavor.
Sage makes meat and pasta dishes pop. It’s also a favorite leaf for brewing tea or for infusing into water. In fact, this herb works in most savory dishes. Just use a light hand and taste as you go–a little too much sage can quickly overpower your meal.
Try It This Week!
Cook up our Sage and Brown Butter Pumpkin Gnocchi with Kale and Sweet and Spicy Walnuts next week to experience sage’s woodsy, primal bite and body-loving benefits.