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Herbal Spotlight: Sage
by Shannon Joyner, Garden Companion Editor

Sage (lower left) planted with thyme, rosemary and chives. image: cynthia raiser jeavonsSage (Salvia officinalis) is a perennial evergreen shrub in the mint family, with silvery-green leaves, a pungent scent, and woody stems. A native of the Mediterranean, sage grows well almost everywhere, and is considered a “sister herb” to potent rosemary (bearing the same medicinal powerhouse rosmarinic acid as well as other beneficial compounds) and has become an important part of traditional medicine all over the world (varieties with different properties include Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulaefolia), Chinese sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza), and White Sage (Salvia apiana). Most uses involve ingesting the leaves by chewing them or creating a tea, tincture, or extract; or creating a topical application such as a salve, to apply to the skin. Extensive research has shown that sage has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, can improve memory retention, has antibacterial action (particularly as a mouthwash to prevent dental decay), contains high amounts of bone-strengthening vitamin K (100g provides almost a third of the US-RDA), can mitigate the symptoms of menopause, soothes skin conditions, helps control blood sugar fluctuations, lowers cholesterol levels, and improves digestion.

It’s also delicious. While a short Internet search can provide a variety of medicinal preparations that use sage, with the holiday season approaching, I’m going to go with Hippocrates and say “Let food be your medicine” with a recipe for a traditional wintery culinary herb mix that relies heavily on sage. Don’t be fooled by the name! Poultry seasoning isn’t just for poultry! According to poultry seasoning can “…spruce up classic roasted vegetables (think Brussels sprouts, carrots, and potatoes). For apps and salads, try mixing a tablespoon of poultry seasoning with Greek yogurt to make a dip for a crudité platter, or whisk some seasoning with lemon juice, salt, and olive oil to make salad dressing. Take things sweet by sautéing apple wedges with butter, honey and poultry seasoning until golden and serve the lot alongside a cheese plate. …[use] poultry seasoning in a compound butter to serve with Parker House rolls, or even in a morning-after-Thanksgiving quiche. Or use it to bolster chestnut-studded corn muffins.”

It’s a seasoning with a strong, earthy and astringent flavor, so go easy with it until you know what you like. For example, try adding 1 to 2 tsp. to 4 cups bread cubes for traditional Thanksgiving stuffing, or with some oil to a pan of roasting vegetables. This mix doesn’t contain salt, so you’ll still need to salt whatever you’re making with it according to your taste.

Poultry Seasoning

3 T ground sage
2 T dried thyme
2 T dried rosemary
1 T dried marjoram
1.5 t ground black pepper
1.5 t smoked paprika (optional)
1 t celery seed
½ t ground nutmeg
¼ t cayenne pepper (optional)

If you are using whole herbs rather than powdered, place everything in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and process until you have a fine powder. Store the mix in a glass jar with a tight lid in your pantry. Properly stored, it should last up to a year – after that it will probably still be good but might not have as much flavor or nutritional value, as the volatile oils in the herbs degrade over time.

Note: While sage is generally recognized as safe for culinary use, it should not be consumed in large amounts or used medicinally without professional supervision. As always, the content in this article is meant to inform, not to diagnose or treat any ailment. Always use common sense, and consult with your healthcare provider before attempting to treat yourself or others.

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