There are more than 700 species of sage, many of them spectacular when in flower, and a number with leaves that are variously scented with pineapple, grapes, tangerine, grapefruit, anise, honey melon or fruit salad. The flowers attract butterflies and nectar-sipping birds. Common or garden sage is one of the best known culinary herbs. Clary sage is one of the most beautiful of these plants, forming a large rosette of broadly ovate, pebble textured leaves and sending up tall dense spikes of large pink flowers. The leaves add a muscatel flavour to a diverse range of of liqueurs, vermouth’s and wines. White sage is used by Native Americans as a flavouring. The golden chia is native to the south west of North America produces tiny oily seeds that are gluten free and very rich in omega 3 fatty acids. The pineapple variety has slender spikes of red flowers and pineapple scented leaves that are used to flavour drinks and garnish desserts. Apple sage forms fruit like semi transparent galls which are candied and eaten as delicacies.
The plan requires a sunny, well drained position. They are propagated from seed or by tip cuttings or division. For shrubby bushes you need to gently prune or pinch back after flowering. Harvest fresh leaves and flowers for culinary use at any time. Dry individual leaves and sprigs before flowering by spreading them out in a well aired place then store in airtight containers.
The common variety is the one most often used for cooking. The aroma is pungent, while the flavour, which intensifies on drying, is savoury, with camphorous overtones. Sage goes with starchy, rich and fatty foods such as duck, with poultry and pork, as a stuffing, red meats, beans, eggplant, tomato based sauces, casseroles and soups. You will find sage in commercially prepared stuffing mixes as well as in Italian dried mixed herbs. You can also deep fry the leaves as a garnish. Best used with a light hand in long cooked dishes, sage is popular in Italy. In the Middle East it is used in salads and sage tea is popular in many European countries. In Dalmatia the flowers are used to make honey.
information sourced from The Complete Book of Herbs
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