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Sage (Salvia officinalis), also known as garden sage and common sage, is a perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the family Lamiaceae and is native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalized in many places throughout the world. It has a long history of medicinal and culinary use, and in modern times as an ornamental garden plant. The common name "sage" is also used for a number of related and unrelated species.
Salvia officinalis has numerous common names. Some of the best known include sage, common sage, garden sage, golden sage, kitchen sage, true sage, culinary sage, Dalmatian sage, and broadleaf sage. Cultivated forms include purple sage and red sage.
Sage has a savoury, slightly peppery flavor. It appears in many European cuisines, notably Italian, Balkan and Middle Eastern cookery. In British and American cooking, it is traditionally served as sage and onion stuffing, an accompaniment to roast turkey or chicken at Christmas or Thanksgiving Day. Other dishes include pork casserole, Sage Derby cheese and Lincolnshire sausages.
Salvia and "sage" are derived from the Latin salvere (to save), referring to the healing properties long attributed to the various Salvia species. It has been recommended at one time or another for virtually every ailment by various herbals. Modern evidence shows possible uses as an antisweating agent, antibiotic, antifungal, astringent antispasmodic, estrogenic, hypoglycemic and tonic.
The strongest active constituents of sage are within its essential oil, which contains cineole, borneol and thujone. Sage leaf contains tannic acid, oleic acid, ursonic acid, ursolic acid, cornsole, cornsolic acid, fumaric acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, niacin, nicotinamide, flavones, flavonoid glycosides and estrogenic substances.
Sage is highly aromatic and fragrant, and the taste is pungent and slightly bitter--a bit medicinal and piney. It's enjoyed in Greek and European cuisines. The Italians are especially fond of sage, and use it with poultry and meats--in particular a veal dish made with sage and white wine. You'll also find sage in sausages, processed meats, and, of course, stuffing recipes. Try it in salad dressings, chowder, fish and cheese dishes. Add it to breads and muffins, beans, poultry and squash dishes, breads, and tomato sauces. Sage is excellent in butter for pasta, and it's delicious in tea, alone or partnered with other herbs. Use sage with a light touch, because it can easily overpower a dish. On the other hand, it stands up well to long-cooking without any loss of flavor. Because it's strong, pair it with other strong flavors like garlic and pepper.
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