Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today: We're full of sage advice.
Meet sage -- another member of the mint family (siblings include basil, lemon balm, shiso, and thyme, among others), and a particularly lovely member, we might add. Sage leaves have intricately patterned tops (2, below) -- like the vegetable world’s answer to stingray skin -- and delicately veined undersides (1, below). Plus they are soft. Very soft. Just try and pick up a bundle of sage and not pet the leaves -- it's as if they came straight out of a child’s touch-and-feel book.
Don’t get the wrong idea though: Just because they are soft -- so soft -- doesn’t mean they aren’t strong. Unlike other types of fresh herbs that should be added near the end of cooking, lest their flavor get lost, sage can handle the heat. Deborah Madison adds: “There’s no need to add sage at the end, unless as a garnish, as with fried sage leaves.”
The most commonly available type of sage is -- you guessed it -- common sage. There are a number of different kinds of sage (a handful of which we actually eat), but there is one type you might regularly eat without realizing it -- chia seeds. Chia seeds come from a type of sage grown for its seeds rather than its leaves.
If you grow your own sage, when summer rolls around again, don’t miss out on the blossoms; they’re pretty, but they’re really tasty, too. Sprinkle them on salads, whip up a batch of herb and blossom tempura, or make sage blossom jelly or syrup, the latter of which can be put to good use in cocktails and lemonade.
More: If you have more fresh sage than you know what to do with, try drying it.
Sage’s reputation is too often limited to that of a ubiquitous stuffing ingredient or a misunderstood act of purification. We don’t need to tell you that sage’s comforting piney flavor is a natural with roasted vegetables or that it goes perfectly with pork and poultry, and you’re probably already pairing it with herbs like rosemary and thyme -- as you should. But are you eating much sage for breakfast? (And sausage doesn't count.) Are you sticking it in sauces or serving sage in appetizers? If not, you should start doing all of those things, too:
Begin your day with sage.
Snack on some sage.
Let sage get saucy.
Get to know sage's sweeter side.
Another added bonus of consuming more sage: It just might boost your memory power, and as we enter into another hectic holiday season, couldn’t we all use the extra help?
Second to last photo by James Ransom; all others by Alpha Smoot