Sage

19 Fun Facts About Sage (Salvia officinalis)

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Introduction

Sage is an aromatic, evergreen perennial in the mint family that has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. With its soft, velvety gray-green leaves and pretty purple or blue flowers, sage makes a beautiful addition to any herb garden. Beyond its ornamental qualities, sage has a long history of use for warding off evil, treating snakebites, increasing fertility, and more thanks to its beneficial essential oils like thujone, cineole, and borneol.

While most people are familiar with common sage or garden sage (Salvia officinalis), there are over 900 species of sage found worldwide1. No matter the variety, sage has been well-regarded throughout history for both its flavor and purported health benefits.

Let’s explore 19 fascinating facts about this legendary herb:

Fun Facts About Sage

Fresh sage leaves background. Sage or salvia growing in garden, used in medicinal and culinary
  1. Sage means “to heal” in Latin – Salvia officinalis gets its name from the Latin word “salvere” which means “to heal” or “to save”. This refers to its long-documented history of medicinal use.
  2. It’s native to the Mediterranean region – Sage is native throughout the Mediterranean region including the southeast Balkan peninsula and some parts of Asia. It grows wild in a variety of habitats in these areas.
  3. Ancient Egyptians used it – Sage has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes since at least 500 BC or earlier. The ancient Egyptians used it to improve fertility and ward off evil spirits.
  4. The Romans referred to sage as “sacred” – Ancient Romans called sage “sacred” and incorporated it into many religious ceremonies. They also used it to preserve meat and as a snakebite remedy.
  5. It was popular in the Middle Ages – During the Middle Ages, sage was a very popular herb across Europe and used to treat many ailments. People also believed it could grant immortality and improve memory.
  6. Native Americans used it too – Sage was used medicinally by many Native American tribes including the Dakota, Lakota, and Ojibwe to treat conditions like arthritis, diarrhea, headaches, and sore throats.
  7. The Chinese valued it highly – Sage has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine as well where it was known as “thinker’s tea” and valued for its brain-boosting abilities.
  8. It contains beneficial compounds – Sage contains a variety of beneficial plant compounds like flavonoids, phenolic acids, and oxygen-handling enzymes that give it antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
  9. Its essential oil packs a punch – The essential oil of sage contains thujone, cineole, borneol, and other active compounds that provide antiseptic, anti-fungal, and antibacterial benefits. However, thujone can cause seizures in very high doses.
  10. It has pretty flowers – Sage plants produce spikes of tubular two-lipped flowers ranging from purple and blue to pink and white depending on the variety. These flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
  11. There are over 900 types – While common sage is the best known, there are over 900 recognized species and countless cultivars of sage. Varieties include pineapple sage, tricolor sage, clary sage, and more.
  12. It comes in many colors and sizes – In addition to different flower colors, sage foliage also varies by cultivar. You can find sage with gray, green, purple, tricolor, golden, or variegated leaves. Plants range in size from small dwarfs to large shrubs.
  13. The flavor varies too – While most types of sage have an earthy, woodsy, slightly minty flavor, some varieties like pineapple sage have a fruity aroma and flavor. All provide a strong herbal quality.
  14. It helps extend the shelf life of foods – Sage contains antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds that make it useful for extending the shelf life of foods like meats, cheese, and condiments.
  15. It pairs well with rich foods – In cooking applications, sage is traditionally used to flavor stuffings, meat and bean dishes, cheeses, eggs, vegetables, and more—especially richer, fatty recipes.
  16. A little goes a long way – You only need to use a small amount of sage to impart lots of flavor. Start with just a few leaves or about 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon of dried sage per 4-6 servings.
  17. It has household uses – In addition to cooking, sage smudge sticks are popular for burning to cleanse spaces. Sage essential oils or leaves can also be used to make insect repellants.
  18. You can grow it yourself – Sage is very easy to grow at home. It thrives with plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil. Both growing sage from seeds or cuttings is possible.
  19. It has year-round appeal – One of the best things about sage is that it has interest across seasons. It provides beautiful flowers in spring, fragrant foliage in summer and fall, and maintains its silvery appearance through winter.

Key Takeaways

  • Sage has been used since ancient times for healing, warding off evil, increasing fertility, and more thanks to its beneficial plant compounds.
  • This aromatic, flavorful herb is native to the Mediterranean region but now grows worldwide. Over 900 species exist.
  • All types of sage feature antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties but flavor profiles and plant appearance vary.
  • In cooking, sage pairs well with rich meats, beans, vegetables, eggs, cheese and more. A little goes a long way due to its strong flavor.
  • Beyond culinary uses, sage has household applications for cleansing spaces, repelling insects, and more. It’s also very easy to grow at home.
  • With pretty flowers, fragrant foliage, and velvety soft leaves, sage makes a beautiful ornamental plant for herb gardens.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does sage taste like?

Most types of sage have an earthy, woodsy flavor with slight minty or fruity nuances depending on the variety. The flavor is strong and pairs well with hearty foods.

What dishes use sage?

Sage is popular in Italian and British cuisine for seasoning fatty meats like sausage, pork, duck, and goose. It also frequently appears in stuffings, bean dishes, pasta, cheese dishes, eggs, and more.

Is sage safe to consume?

Yes, sage is safe for consumption in small culinary amounts. Pregnant women should avoid high doses of sage leaf or sage essential oils due to the chemical thujone which may be harmful. And everyone should avoid essential oil internally.

How do you dry sage?

To dry sage, wash fresh leaves gently, pat dry, and hang small bunches upside down in a warm, dry, dark place. Leaves are fully dried when they crumble easily. Store dried leaves whole or crushed in an airtight container.

Can you grow sage indoors?

Yes! Sage grows well indoors in containers near sunny windows. Use a quality potting mix and allow the soil to dry somewhat between waterings. Trim your potted sage to keep it a manageable size. Provide at least 6 hours of sun daily.

Conclusion

From ancient medicinal uses to modern culinary applications, sage has remained a popular and versatile herb for millennia—and for good reason! With over 900 diverse species to explore and countless ways to utilize this flavorful, aromatic herb, sage is an easy way to enhance your cooking, beautify your garden, and improve your health. Hopefully, these 19 fun facts have inspired you to grow, cook, and experiment more with sage.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia []

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