A short guide to the herb sage, including medicinal value and ideas for use in cooking.

sage
Sage is probably most well known as one of the main ingredients of sage and onion stuffing, which is traditionally served on Christmas Day with roast turkey or roast goose.

Sage is another herb that has been around for thousands of years and which was not only used in cooking but also as a popular medicine. In fact, the word sage derives from the Latin "salvare", which means to heal or to save.

Sage has long been cultivated in southern and Eastern Europe, around the Mediterranean and in Asia Minor and is widely used in Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Sage has a strong, woody flavour and is particularly popular served with poultry, pork and other meat dishes.
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History of sage

Sage was very popular amongst the ancient Greek and Romans, who as well as using it as a meat preservative, also used it for its medicinal properties.

Sage was revered as a wonder herb that cured all diseases and was even thought to have magical and sacred qualities.

People from all corners of the world, from the ancient Egyptians to the Native Americans, regarded sage with the utmost respect. Over the centuries it has been said that sage could aid conception, treat the plague, protect against witchcraft and spells, enhance the memory and even bestow immortality.

Nutritional value of sage

Sage is low in calories and fat, as are all herbs, and can therefore be added to all meals without having to worry about putting on weight.

Sage is a very good source of Vitamin A, calcium, iron and potassium. Vitamin A and calcium are both especially important for maintaining healthy teeth, bones and skin. (For more information on the health benefits of vitamins and minerals.

Health benefits of sage

Sage has been used for hundreds of years to treat all kinds of ailments. It was particularly popular in 19th century French medicine but is still used today by many people who prefer to cure themselves with herbal medicines.

Below is a list describing how sage can be used as a medicine and how it can benefit one's health.
  • It has recently been proven that taking sage can improve and enhance one's memory.
  • Sage contains rosmarinic acid, which acts as an anti-inflammatory within the body.
  • Sage is a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from being damaged by oxidation and forming cancerous cells.
  • Prepare a little sage tea and use it to gargle with in order to relieve a sore throat and any mouth infections.
  • Sage may help people with diabetes.
  • Women suffering from excessive sweating due to the menopause should try drinking sage tea several times a day.
  • Sage can help to regulate menstruation and is good for all female gynaecological problems.
  • Clary sage is said to ease anxiety and relieve stress and depression.
  • Sage is said to help with allergies.
  • Sage is also a digestive and can aid digestion, particularly the digestion of rich, fatty foods.
  • Sage may help ease colds, coughs and excess mucous.
  • If gargled it may reduce bad breath.
  • Sage has antiseptic properties, which can treat cuts and sores if prepared as a wash.
  • If used as a hair rinse, it has been said that sage will reduce hair loss and darken the colour.

Storing fresh and dried sage

Sage can be bought cut fresh or dried from your local supermarket. You can grow sage in your garden, although if you live in a cold climate, it will not grow as well as in a warm and sunny country.

Dried sage can keep for about six months but must be stored in an airtight container or glass jar.

Cut fresh sage leaves should be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or you may wrap them in a damp paper towel to maintain their freshness for as long as possible. They will usually last for three or four days.

Freshly picked sage leaves from your garden will keep for at least a week longer if stored under optimum conditions - wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Ideas for using sage in cooking

Sage is not only ideal for flavouring meat or poultry dishes, it also goes well with cheese, apples and tomatoes. Try some of our ideas below.
  • Use to make your own homemade stuffing mixed with onion.
  • Use to flavour homemade vegetable soups.
  • Add to your homemade sausage mix or sausage stew.
  • Add some chopped sage leaves to macaroni cheese or other cheese dishes.
  • Sprinkle chopped sage leaves or dried sage onto toasted rustic or French bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.
  • Add to a fresh tomato and cheese salad.
  • Use sage to season and flavour any type of tomato sauce for pasta.
  • Add a small amount of fresh sage to a cheese omelette or frittata.
  • Sprinkle freshly cut sage leaves onto your pizza.
  • Use to flavour roast chicken or fish.
  • Use in a recipe for "saltimbocca", where sage leaves are rolled up with ham and veal and then fried in olive oil.
  • Fry sage leaves in butter to make a delicious sauce for pasta.
  • Use sage in your own homemade pâté recipe.
  • Add some chopped sage to your bread recipe.
  • Rub sage and garlic into pork chops before grilling.
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Sage Recipes

Four delicious recipes including pork chops with sage and citrus fruits, quick pork chops with sage and calves' livers with sage butter.

Pork Chops with Sage and Citrus Fruits

This main meal is so easy to prepare, healthy and delicious. Serve with roast potatoes, mashed potatoes or rice.

Ingredients
  • 4 pork loin chops
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • ½ pack of sage
  • 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Method
  1. Set the oven to 450°F (230°C).
  2. Place the pork chops in a large roasting tin and season slightly with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Halve the oranges and lemons, squeeze the juice out and pour it into a mixing bowl. Set the empty orange and lemon halves aside.
  4. Add the crushed garlic, chopped sage, vinegar and olive oil to the orange and lemon juice and mix all the ingredients together.
  5. Pour this mixture over the pork chops in the roasting tin.
  6. Place the orange and lemon halves amongst the pork chops along with the whole sage leaves.
  7. Place the tray into the preheated oven and roast the pork chops for 15 - 20 minutes.
  8. Remove the meat and keep warm.
  9. Place the roasting tray over a high heat and bring the sauce to a boil. Stir continuously and cook until the sauce has reduced to a desired consistency.
  10. Serve the pork chops with the sauce, a selection of steamed vegetables and rice or potatoes.

Calves' Liver with Herby Sage Butter and Caramelised Onions

The preparation of this dish can be quite tricky but then you wouldn't eat this dish every day and so it is well worth the effort.

Ingredients
  • thin slices of calves' liver
  • 3 oz (85 g) of butter
  • 2 sliced red onions
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, shredded
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
Method
  1. First of all the butter must be clarified. To do this, place the butter in a small saucepan and melt over a low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to sit until all the sediment has sunk to the bottom. With a spoon only remove the golden butter from the top and transfer it to a small bowl. Clean out the while milky butter from the pan and then return the clarified butter to the saucepan.
  2. Add half of the shredded sage to the butter and heat until the mixture almost reaches boiling point. Turn off the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Pass the butter only through a sieve and into a large frying pan. Turn the cooker to a fairly high heat.
  4. Add the sliced onions and the lemon juice and stir frequently so that the onions do not burn. Reduce the heat slightly and cook for about 15 - 20 minutes or until the onions are soft and caramelised.
  5. Add the balsamic vinegar and the remaining shredded sage and stir.
  6. At this point, remove the caramelised onions and transfer to a plate. Set aside.
  7. Now, fry the calves' livers for about 1 minute on each side, increasing the heat of the cooker.
  8. Finally, return the onions to the frying pan with the liver and heat up for a further minute.
  9. Season with salt and pepper and then serve immediately.

Quick Pork Chops with Sage

Sage is the perfect herb to accompany pork and give it a different taste and this meal can be prepared in minutes. Serve with a fresh salad.

Ingredients
  • 4 pork chops
  • 2 sliced red onions
  • 4 plum tomatoes cut into quarters
  • 2 tbsp of flour
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 2 tsp of cater sugar
  • salt and pepper
Method
  1. Place the flour, chopped sage, salt and pepper onto a plate and mix together.
  2. Coat both sides of the pork chops in the flour.
  3. Melt the butter and heat with the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the pork chops once the oil is hot enough.
  4. Fry the pork chops on both sides until they are browned and cooked through.
  5. Remove from the pan and drain of the excess fat on kitchen paper. Set aside and keep warm.
  6. Fry the onions in the same frying pan along with the lemon juice, plum tomatoes and the sugar until the onions are soft.
  7. Serve the pork chops with the onions and tomatoes and a fresh green salad.

Saltimbocca alla Romana

This is an Italian dish that is extremely quick and easy to prepare. The sage leaves are wrapped inside the veal escalopes with a slice of Parma ham and then gently fried in Marsala wine.

Ingredients
  • 8 veal escalopes (4 oz / 115 g each)
  • 8 thin slices of Parma ham
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 4 fl oz (115 g) of Marsala
  • 2 oz (55 g) of butter
  • 2 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • pepper
Method
  1. Place the veal escalopes between two sheets of greaseproof paper or cling film and flatten with a rolling pin or meat flattener.
  2. Season each escalope with pepper and sprinkle with lemon juice.
  3. Take one sage leaf and place it in the middle of the escalope. Repeat with the remaining sage leaves and escalopes.
  4. Cover the sage leaf with a slice of Parma ham.
  5. Carefully roll the veal escalopes up and secure each one with a cocktail stick.
  6. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over a moderate - high heat.
  7. Add the veal rolls and fry gently until the meat has browned all over.
  8. Pour in the Marsala wine and mix together with the butter and oil.
  9. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the veal rolls for about 10 - 15 minutes with the pan covered.
  10. Transfer the veal rolls onto a warmed plate and pour the juices over them.
  11. Serve immediately.
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