" Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.
Scarborough Fair/Canticle - Simon and Garfunkel
Today I’ve decided to take a fragrant and flavorful journey with the genus Salvia....more commonly known to us as Sage. Sage is the herb that I love the most passionately and if I ever (God, perish the thought!) had to choose just one culinary herb, besides my beloved roses to spend the rest of my days with, it would be the Salvia Officinalis or the Common or Culinary Sage.
Immortalized in songs and sonnets , sage is still planted in romantic cloisters and medieval knot gardens that have been hidden for centuries behind castle walls. Sage with its lovely leaves and flowers are embroidered into some of the most famous tapestries ever created, tapestries that set passionate fire to the imagination. Indeed , the lovely little sage plant is no stranger to the secret languages of passion and romance.
It comes in so many different varieties and I try to plant as many as I can, adoring them for their flowers which my hummingbirds love and the velvety scented leaves that flavor my soups and stews all throughout the year.
There are sacred Sages, culinary Sages and even a psychoactive Sage, the gorgeous yet very dangerous Salvia Divinorum. I have found Sages growing wild in Colorado and Arizona and have picked big bouquets of long stemmed Sacred White Sage in Wyoming where it grows abundantly along the Snake River, taking it home and turning it into smudge sticks.
Indigenous Americans have always considered sage one of the most sacred of herbs and burned smudge sticks made of the leaves to banish any feelings of negativity or the lingering feelings of fear and sorrow left in a space once a being has passed on or suffered through a long sickness or trauma. They also used the wet leaves in their sweat lodges to produce copious amounts of smoke that would help open the nasal passages and the lungs.
Sage is an ancient herb, beloved for centuries in Europe and on this continent for its medicinal and antibacterial qualities and of course for the musky, earthy flavor that blends so beautifully with so many things. Indeed the associations that we have in America with the aroma of sage are of hearth and home. Indeed, the scent of a turkey roasting with a sage, sausage, apple and chestnut dressing takes me back into my mothers kitchen faster than almost any other thing else that I can cook.
Sage Derby, that remarkable English cheese has its origins in the 17th century when sage leaves were added to fresh derby curds to produce a delicious cheese enjoyed at harvest and holiday feasts that was almost minty in flavor and absolutely wonderful for the digestion.
These days, fresh sage is still added at the beginning of the process and chlorophyll too, so that the cheese has a beautiful marbling of green throughout. Sage Derby is my favorite cheese to melt over sprouted grain bread for a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich and one of the most beautiful cheeses to use on a cheese board. Make sure that you have a wonderful ale to go with that and some sweet fresh apples too!
I’ve also made my own farmers cheese flavored with sage using a gallon of organic milk (cream on top!), a pinch of salt and the juice of one lemon. It's a very simple recipe, just bring the milk to a boil, stir for a minute and add the salt . Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and the curds will begin to form.
Take a yard of cheese cloth and line a strainer with it, (I've found that a pasta pot with a strainer works very well for this) and pour in the milk and curds. Let it drain for a bit, scoop out the cheese and put it into a bowl. Add some salt, pepper and chopped fresh sage. Refrigerate and serve with whole grain crackers for a light treat that’s absolutely delicious and has the added bonus of being easily digestible.
I love to drink sage tea when I've got a touch of the flu as I find that it relaxes me and cools me down if I'm feverish. Just steep a handful of fresh sage (or a tablespoon or two of dried) in a cup of hot water, add a bit of raw honey and enjoy. This same tonic makes an exceptional gargle for a sore throat and really soothes the parched dry tissues of aching tonsils.
One tablespoon of powdered sage, mixed into a paste with 2 tablespoons of baking soda, ½ a teaspoon of water and one drop of peppermint essential oil is one of the best remedies that I know of to help sooth inflamed gums naturally.
Women who experience a heavier flow during their monthly periods have historically drunk sage tea to help bring a bit of balance to their cycle and lighten up heavier bleeding. An important note for women who are breastfeeding - avoid sage as it will dry up your milk production very quickly.
I love to take 2 cups of fresh sage and 1 cup of Crystallized ginger and simmer them with a cup of brown sugar and 3 cups of water until they boil down into a delightful syrup that makes a very relaxing and restorative digestive when stirred into a glass of white wine. Try infusing the same syrup into a pitcher of iced green tea! You'll love it!
So this year I hope that you’ve planted a few different types of sage to enjoy! Don't forget the beautifully fragrant clary sage and in my book you can never have too much pineapple sage! That's the one that the hummingbirds really adore and you'll spend many a summer afternoon watching them dart from bud to bud while sipping a cool glass of that delicious iced tea.
One last thing! The compound found in sage called thujone can be dangerous to anyone with high blood pressure or high blood sugar that is already taking medications for these conditions.
Always talk to your Doctor or pharmacist before using sage or any other herb for wellness to make sure that it doesn’t contraindicate in any way with any medical conditions that you may have.