Native to the Mediterranean coast, common sage is named for from the Latin word meaning “to be saved,” thanks to its reputation as a medicinal cure-all.
Ancient Egyptians used sage to stimulate fertility and to treat infectious diseases; it was also the main ingredient used in embalming. The Greeks and Romans used sage medicinally to enhance memory, while in the kitchen it was used as a meat preservative. The ancient Chinese eagerly adopted the use of sage and traded four pounds of tea for every one pound of sage. Today, there are over 700 species of sage spread throughout the world.
Sage is high in vitamins A, C, E, and K and is a good source of folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese. It has shown promise in treating Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, depression, and menopause symptoms. Its antiseptic properties can also help heal a sore throat, canker sores, gum disease, and fungal infections.
Wrap sage sprigs in a damp paper towel, seal in a plastic bag or jar and keep in the refrigerator crisper for up to 5 days. Alternatively, cover leaves with olive oil and store them in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.
With a dusky, dry flavor that complements meat and poultry, sage is a regular addition to traditional stuffing, as well as classic soup, stew, and sauce recipes. Sage leaves fried in butter are a delicious garnish for seafood and pasta.
If not using a whole sprig of sage, separate leaves from the stem and chop finely to use. 1 tablespoon of fresh sage substitutes for 1 teaspoon dried.