Sage aromatic plant: its use in cooking and its healing properties
What is sage, the popular aromatic plant
Sage is an aromatic plant with an intense perfume: much like mint and thyme it belongs to the Lamiaceae family: its scientific name is salvia officinalis and it is the most common and known species of the sages group. It’s the one that is most commonly used in the kitchen.
Sage looks like an evergreen bush as it’s stem is decidedly branched and has a maximum height of 70 centimeters. Its most important characteristic is its leaves: they are hard and thick, they look like small spears and have a peculiar grey-green color. They have an intense aroma and are the raw material from which essential oils are obtained. The flowers that bloom in spring, have a gradient color from blue to violet. Sage is a typical plant of the Mediterranean scrub and therefore it prefers sunny areas; however, it can also grow in harsh climates, even if it’s difficult to identify it if it’s found in the wild.
As for the cultivated specimens, it must be remembered that their life span lasts 5 years.
The beneficial and medicinal properties of sage
Sage has remarkable therapeutic properties, known since ancient times: not for nothing its name derives from the latin word “salvus”, which literally means “healthy”.
Many cultures and populations have legends and beliefs related to the properties of the plant.
For instance, amongst the Gauls it was believed that the plant could heal all diseases and that its intake would protect from cough and fever. Moreover, it was believed that it was a raw material for magic filters with which you could resuscitate the dead. The Romans, instead, would consider sage as sacred: its harvesting would take place as an actual ritual, preceded by sacrifices, and this operation was only for a selected few with particular clothing. Finally, in Chinese culture it was a contribution of longevity and was used to treat insomnia, while in the Middle ages the leaves were applied to wounds and sore to help the healing process.
The active ingredients of sage are all in the leaves, that must be picked in spring and summer and benefit to dry in the shade. If instead you would like to use them raw, they are placed inside glass jars to preserve them away from light.
The essential oil is antiseptic and contains beta-terpineol, cineole and beta-caryophyllene whilst the carnosic acid is anti inflammatory and antioxidant. Even the flavonoids are antioxidants. The bitter qualities of picrosalvina and salvina have a beneficial action on the gastrointestinal system, while the phenolic acids stimulate gallbladder. At the same time, sage has bitter-tonic, diuretic, digestive, spasmolytic, estrogenic, hypoallergenic and balsamic properties . Like soy, it is one of the food products that contain an extremely high level of phytoestrogens, for which sage is an anti galactogen, meaning that it inhibits formation of breast milk, and limits night and day sweats of feet and hands. Finally, taking sage helps cure edemas, strong pains cause by menstruation, water retention, rheumatism and problems caused by menopause: in fact, this plant is a natural estrogen. The use of sage is advised also if you have gingivitis and to prevent diabetes.
Using sage in the kitchen
Sage is used in the kitchen in the form of fresh or dried leaves: its use is to flavor food, that can be meat or fish dishes, first courses or savory cakes.
From the beneficial point of view the consumption of an energy drink is advised so as to restore strength to those who just overcame a disease. You need to macerate 100 grams of dried flowers and leaves for eight days in a liter of wine: after this time has passed, the preparation is ready and a small glass of it is taken after meals for it to take effect. A very tasty dish that had sage leaves as its main ingredient is sage pancakes: a batter is made by mixing 200 grams of flour with some salt and cold mineral water. Then, 20 large sage leaves are washed and a flat pan of oil is put on the heat: when this is hot, the leaves are dipped in batter, fried and, after having drained them very well, they are sprinkled with salt.