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Sage is the versatile Mediterranean herb with a powerful flavour
Sage has silver green leaves and a pine-like flavour with a pleasant bitter note. Food connoisseurs love it for its complex aroma.
Sage, like caraway, can make high fat foods more digestible. This makes it a great addition to a number of rich meat dishes and also dishes that require a lot of butter. The Mediterranean cuisine in particular benefits from its distinctive aroma – it is an important element of the well-known veal dish, Saltimbocca. It’s no surprise that sage has such a large role to play in the Mediterranean cuisine since it originated in this area.
The aromatic herb doesn’t always have to accompany a rich meal; sage leaves also make a delicious sage tea with a slightly bitter taste – all you need is a few leaves. The sage shrub is a perennial plant that thrives in colder regions as well as in barren soil. For those growing sage at home, the best way to capture it at its most flavourful is to pick the leaves before they flower. They can be used directly or frozen for later.
|Contents||thujone, calcium, potassium|
|Season||summer – pick shortly before flowering|
|Storage||fresh leaves in vegetable drawer of fridge or freezer|
|Shelf life||up to 2 weeks (fridge); a few months (freezer)|
Although most recipes usually call for fresh sage leaves, dried leaves can also do the trick but are often more bitter in taste. The small, purple-blue blossoms can also be used as edible decoration. Sage is usually complimented by other herbs in cooking, such as estragon or thyme, or ingredients like garlic and black pepper. When it comes to seasoning fish, mushroom dishes or sauces, sage is an excellent choice. For a slightly more unusual combination, try adding sage to your next homemade lemonade for a fresh and herbal twist on the classic.
When buying sage, look out for fresh, firm leaves with an intense colour and firm stems. When rubbed together, the stems should give off a strong herbal aroma. As sage has a large number of cultivars, it can often range in taste, however, its slight bitter note remains consistent throughout all varieties. Pineapple sage, for example, has a sour, fruity flavour, whereas dalmatian sage has a sweet and fresh note which balances its bitterness.
Regardless of which variety you use, sage always lends its strongly aromatic flavour to any dish. If cooking with the herb for the first time, be careful to use it sparingly as the flavour can be overpowering at times. Sage compliments meat dishes like no other spice, but it does require some getting used to in order to ensure you use the correct quantities.
A simple and classic dish using the aromatic herb is ravioli in a sage and butter sauce – melt a large amount of butter in a pan, then stir in some thinly-sliced sage leaves. Leave the sauce to cook until it begins to brown, then toss the cooked ravioli in the sauce, season with salt, and serve.
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