Sage originated in Mediterranean, but ever since Middle Ages it has been grown in North Europe. During the Renaissance era sage was a favourite herb in monastery gardens where medicinal plants were grown. Later sage moved to private gardens and became a culinary herb. Nowadays sage has a wide usage in cookery.
There are more than 700 known varieties of sage.
Sage has a strong scent and spicy and bitter taste, but it can give the dishes a fruity scent. For example, leaves and flowers of pineapple sage have a very exotic scent, while some other sage varieties have a scent of ripe melon
Fresh young sage leaves are often added to salads, vegetable and fish dishes. Dried sage has a strong scent and spicy and bitter taste. Dried sage can be added to fatty meat, which gains pleasant scent and spicy taste. Meat which had been treated with sage becomes more tender, tasty and digested more easily. Sage can be used for fish marinades and fish sauces. Several leaves of sage added to oil give a pleasant aftertaste to fried fish.
Powdered sage is added to cheeses, giving them slightly savoury taste. Famous English Derbyshire cheese is one of those cheeses. In Mexico, Chile and Peru aromatic refreshing drinks are made of ground roots and fresh stalks of sage.
Sage is very popular in South European and North American cuisines. It is added to salads, soups, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and even desserts. In Italy this herb is used in combination with rosemary. In China sage can be used instead of regular tea.
Sage leaves should be used very carefully, because they have a very strong scent. Too much sage in a dish can result in unpleasant mouldy taste.
- Combinations and substitutes
Some cooks claim that sage can be used instead of rosemary. Due to the strong scent scent, it is unwise to combine sage with spices and herbs which have more delicate and tender scent and taste. It is best to combine it with onion, garlic and green pepper.
Sage should be stored in a tightly closed glass container in a dry and dark place.