Sage – Salvia officinalis – has an unusual and distinct flavour. It is a ‘dry land’ plant that likes the sun, soil heat, lots of air flow around it and a fairly minimal but constant level of nutrient and moisture. My favourite way to use it is dropping a large handful into a pan with melted butter quickly sizzling it with some very thin slices of pepperoni – and tipping that onto a bowl of fresh pasta with some basil, thyme and some shaved parmesan thrown in at the last moment.
There are are many other tasty uses including with white beans or ancient grains combined with onion, and even as a versatile dessert item when mixed with a lot of honey.
I have found that if you trim the bottom leaves off it will increase air flow around the base of the plant which reduces significantly the problems of fungal attack which are usually the main reasons for ‘sudden death syndrome’ in Sage plants – where they get very wet and then die almost overnight. Growing them in large ceramic pots can also help if you want a smaller longer lived supply. They will always grow better in the ground if kept well ‘aired’.
The plants usually take about 2 years to reach full growth and then will last and harvest well for at least 5-6 years before declining in leaf production – but I have one bush in a ceramic pot hat is close to 15 years old and still going strong.
The tricolour and purple varieties are also usually identical in flavour but make interesting additions to a salad dish. The leaf size can affect the intensity and the larger leaf varieties make for a much better texture and flavour combination if used in fresh salads etc.
It keeps well and stays fresh after being harvested by placing it into a glass of water. Personally I don’t like it much when it dries out.
The history around Sage being traded for Tea into China in the early years of the spice trade makes for interesting reading. It was considered a very important medicinal plant from at least the early Grecian period.