by Sheetal Parikh, MS, RDN, LDN
Sage is a herb from the mint family that has a sweet as well as the savory flavor. Botanically known as Salvia officinalis, it is native to the Mediterranean region. In earlier times used for its medicinal value, the most popular use of sage these days is at Thanksgiving meals. But sage cannot be refrained from using around the year due to its unique flavor in recipes.
Originating in the Mediterranean, sage was used by the Romans in foods to help one better digest fatty foods. The Father of pharmacognosy, Dioscorides, was a military physician and Nero’s pharmacognosist (a person who studies the medicine that comes from plants or herbs) who noted sage as one of the most appreciated and important herbs of the time (Petrovska, 2012). He used it as a decoction on wounds to stop bleeding, for ulcers, and as a tea for sore throats and hoarseness.
“The juice of Sage drank with vinegar, had been of good use in time of the plague at all times. And with other hot and comfortable herbs sage is boiled to bathe the body and the legs in the summertime, especially to warm cold joints, or sinews, troubled with the palsy and cramp, and to comfort and strengthen the parts. It is much commended against the stitch, or pains in the side coming of wind, if the place be fomented warm with the decoction thereof in wine, and the herb also after boiling be laid warm thereunto.”-Culpepper (1653)
The herb is an exceptionally very rich source of several B-complex groups of vitamins, such as folic acid, thiamin, pyridoxine and riboflavin. The herb contains very good amounts of vitamin-A and beta-carotene levels. 100 grams of dry ground herb provides 5900 IU; about 196% of RDA. Vitamin-A is a powerful natural antioxidant and is essential for night vision. It is also required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin. Fresh sage leaves are a good source of antioxidant vitamin, vitamin-C; contain 32.4 or 54% of RDA. Vitamin C helps in the synthesis of structural proteins like collagen. It contributes to maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones.
Use sage very lightly, especially if you are unfamiliar with it; it is a pungent herb that can completely overwhelm all the other flavors in a dish and leave it bitter and unpalatable. A little of it will go a long way. Do add complementary flavors to dishes that contain sage. Sage is pungent but still needs to be paired with other flavors in order to provide an appealing overall flavor profile. Other herbs and spices that go well with it include garlic, rosemary and bay leaf.
It is so very important to add sage at the right time. Sage is often used in dishes that require long braising times like roasts and stews. Like many herbs, the fresh version of sage has a milder flavor than the dried version. This difference dictates the right time in the cooking process to add it to a dish. While fresh sage is pungent enough to hold up to long cooking times, the best results come when it is added just before the end of the cooking time. Add dried sage at the start of cooking so that it can mellow out as the dish cooks. Sage is one of those unique herbs that can be added to sweet, bitter, sour, savory dishes and pairs very well with asparagus, beans, cherries, pasta, and potatoes.
To store, simply wrap the sage leaves in paper towels and put them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Make sure to use the leaves within four to five days. Fresh leaves that are covered in olive oil can be stored for much longer in the refrigerator, about three weeks.
Below is the recipe which can be paired with the Thanksgiving meal as a plant-based side and/or main dish.
Roasted Vegetables with Sage
Serving – 4
- Brussels Sprout- 2 cups diced
- Red Potatoes – 2 cups diced
- Butternut squash- 2 cups diced
- Olive Oil – 2 tablespoon
- Cumin- 1 teaspoon
- Sage, fresh – ½ teaspoon chopped
- Garlic – 4 cloves
- Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon ground (For spicy version, add 1 teaspoon of chilly flakes)
- Salt to taste
- In a non-stick pan add olive oil and cumin seeds.
- Once the cumin seeds starts cracking, add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add all the vegetables and let it cook until they are soft and crispy.
- Add sage, black pepper and salt and cook for another 2-3 minutes before it is served.
Sheetal Parikh, MS, RDN, LDN is specialized in Plant-Based Nutrition and has been vegetarian all her life. She brings unique versatility in the nutrition world blending eastern and western cultures and traditions. She believes that “You are what you Eat”. Currently she is an Author for Vegan/Vegetarian diets in Nutrition Care Manual, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, Florida State Coordinator and Diversity Liaison for Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, Advisory Board Member for Keiser University and she loves to create new recipes and cook healthy and yummy plant based meals for her colleagues, friends and family.