It would not be Thanksgiving at my house without sage. On Turkey Day, I place leaves of this indispensable herb under the bird’s skin as well as in the bundle of herbs I put in the cavity. For those using poultry seasoning, sage is usually the second ingredient listed. (Thyme is first with rosemary coming in third.)
Sage has long been thought to aid the digestion of fatty foods. I use sage in preparing poultry and pork. Italian cooks pair it with vegetables as well. In fact, deep-fried sage leaves are used as a first course and a garnish.
If you would like to try sage with vegetables, the easiest notion I have come across is for a white bean soup. Cook a pound of great northern beans just covered in water. When they are soft, add a can of diced tomatoes seasoned with two cloves of garlic and two teaspoons of dried sage. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
The name sage, salvia, comes from the Latin verb meaning to cure, to save, or to be in good health. There is an old proverb that declares one who has sage in the garden will never grow old. Indeed it has been shown to improve mood and memory.
There are over 900 species of salvia, so I must clarify that the subject of this article is Salvia officinalis. (The flower we call salvia is a close relative of sage.)
This Mediterranean native wants full sun and a light, somewhat alkaline, well-drained soil. It may rot in our heavy clay, so amend the soil with expanded shale or grow it in a container. It is cold hearty to zone 4 (30 below zero), so will survive the winter outside.
The evergreen plants tend to become somewhat woody after four or five years. When that happens, replace the plant.
I grow the basic soft green sage. The prettier variegated cultivars have the same flavor. Their leaves may be purple, silver and green, or there is a tricolored variety that is pink, green and silver.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!
Master gardener Ann Bartlett never lets lack of familiarity with a plant stop her from trying it in the ornamental beds around her home. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.