By Charlotte Bradley
Like many other herbs, sage has a long and glorious past. Throughout history, sage has had more to do
with medicine than actual cooking. Even Charlemagne had it grown in his royal
garden. It’s always interesting to think that the same little leaves that taste
so good with turkey were once used in sacred ceremonies and associated with
The History of Sage:
Sage, or more technically "Salvia Officinalis," originates in the Mediterranean. The versions of sage used in cooking are only a few of over seven hundred varieties of the plant. Not all are suitable for ingestion and one is actually a hallucinogen. That particular brand of sage was used in religious ceremonies in Central America where the plant is native.
The versions of sage that we are familiar with was first brought to light with the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Greeks used the herb to treat any manner of conditions including consumption, ulcers, and snake bites. In the Roman Empire, the herb has a bit more of an illustrious history.
Sage was considered to be a
sacred herb by the Romans and there was a special ceremony to honor the herb as
it was collected. The gatherer would use a knife not made of iron and the
individual had to be clean and dressed in clean garments. A food sacrifice would
also be performed. Once collected, the herb was believed to be good for the
brain and memory, and the Romans would also use it as a form of toothpaste.
There are many forms of sage, the hallucinogenic variety not withstanding. The two most common, at least in the kitchen, are Summer Sage and Winter Sage. Other popular forms of sage include Pineapple Sage which has a unique sweet smell much like a pineapple, and Narrow Leaved Sage, otherwise known as Spanish Sage. Spanish Sage is ideally suited for making a tea. The leaves require only boiling and time to stoop to make the beverage.
Sage is a very powerful herb in the kitchen. Its scent and taste are strong and pleasing and often leaves us with warm memories of Thanksgiving and other family times.
Many individuals familiar with the herb prefer to grow their own. This is possible in small gardens or inside. Some versions of sage can be grown in pots, and many of the varieties are easy to cultivate. A method increasing in popularity is growing sage in a hydroponic garden. Hydroponics growing systems are simple to set up and much cleaner than pots or planting beds as they require no dirt.
Regardless of your method,
sage is a wonderful addition to many food items, not just the traditional
stuffing. Try it in breads or with other vegetables. As you sample your own sage
creations, just remember that you are eating an herb once considered sacred.