Sage is the dried leaves of the herb Salvia officinalis. The aromatic leaves are silvery gray in color. Cut sage refers to leaves which have been cut rather than ground into smaller pieces. Cut sage is preferred when the cook wants the sage to be apparent in the end product. Rubbed sage is put through minimum grinding and a coarse sieve. The result is a fluffy, almost cotton-like product, unique among ground herbs. More sage is sold rubbed than in any other form.
Sage is used in Greek, Italian, and European cuisines. It is used to season sausages, poultry, and fish. Sage has been traditionally used for its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
Historically, southeastern Europe has been the principal producer of sage. Dalmatian sage, as it is commonly called, has been recognized as superior in the United States. It is highly aromatic, noted for its mellowness, and is smoother-tasting due to differing essential oil components.
Sage was used during the Middle Ages to treat many maladies including fevers, liver disease, and epilepsy. The herb was used in England to make a tea that was considered a pleasant and healthful beverage. One common belief was that sage strengthened the memory, hence a sage, or a wise man, always had a long memory. In the 9th century, Charlemagne had sage included among the herbs grown on the imperial farms in Germany. During the 17th century, the Chinese exchanged three or four pounds of their tea with Dutch traders for one pound of European sage leaves.
For decades, sage has been linked to American holiday favorites such as turkey and stuffing. Now, people are discovering its versatility year-round, using it in many of the same ways as they would oregano or basil. In fact, during the past two decades, consumption of sage has increased nearly 90 percent. Sage is highly aromatic, with piney, woody notes. It is ideal for flavoring pork, beef, poultry, lamb, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, rice, pasta, and much more.
What The Experts Say
"I use sage in a dry rub for lamb chops, which also includes lemon zest, white peppercorns, coriander, thyme, and lavender," says Chef Allen Susser, who serves the chops with yuca steak fries.
Perfect flavor partners include:
Balsamic vinegar, basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cream, cheese, garlic, lavender, lemon, mushrooms, onions, oregano, rosemary, and thyme
Flavor & Aroma
Sage is highly aromatic and is characterized by a medicinal, piney-woody flavor.