Like rosemary, sage is a member of the family of traditional Italian pot herbs. I must say that my own introduction to the velvet whitish green leaves was a bit shocking. In fact, I experienced them for the first time many years ago in a typical dish from the Tuscan region: A piece of bread was skewered onto a wooden stick, followed by a large sage leaf, then a tiny bird with its head and beak, succeeded by another piece of bread with another sage leaf and a bird with head and beak and so on, all beautifully seasoned and roasted. I was
stunned – where I grew up people protect birds, provide for them and making sure that they never lack food in winter. The Tuscans who had honoured me by offering these for them very special delicacies, which they rarely share with foreigners, were equally shocked when I categorically refused to taste even one single mouthful of their succulent dish. For a long time I identified the herb with this event, trying to keep as far away from it as possible, without realizing that it’s actually a wonderful basic ingredient for a wide range of savoury and sweet recipes. Sage, in fact, not only enhances the flavour of meat, above all to turkey and pork and, of course, liver, but can also be used for its own distinctive flavour. For example, the leaves immersed in batter and fried are delicious dusted with salt or sugar, depending on the final intended use, viz. as side dish or as an unusual and delicate dessert. It also confers a very striking aroma to simple apple jam. In the end I came to terms with the original Tuscan speciality – no, I haven’t yet tasted it – but I have learnt that each country has its customs and traditions which deserve to be respected. If the ancient Romans where right by upholding that nomen est omen, “the name is a sign ”, sage is certainly worthy of its name. I fact, it derives from the Latin salus, “health” or salvus, “in health”, “safe”. In the past people placed blind trust in its healing qualities and believed that it could help to extend life. It’s said that even the great Cesar, on being informed about the death of a friend exclaimed incredulously: How can a man who has sage in his garden die? (Cur moriatur homo cui salvia crescit in horto?) Whatever, sage contains precious essential oils, tannin acids, resins, flavones and even traces of estrogenic substances which are the reason for its reputation for curing almost everything, ranging from inflamed throats and sore gums, to menopausal difficulties, bad digestion and skin disorders. So, whether you’re in excellent health or not, do yourself some good with a sage infusion. Mince five to six fresh sage leaves and boil for a couple of minutes. Strain, add sugar or honey if you like and enjoy in small sips.
In the cosmetic field, sage has a lot to offer, too. Formerly, women used a final rinse of sage infusion for soft and shiny hair but it also finds its place in nutritious and purifying skin masks. You might want to try the following one:
Nourishing and purifying skin mask
1 sweet apple, peeled and sliced roughly/1 spoonful honey/1 spoonful fresh sage flowers and/or minced leaves
Mix the ingredients and spread over your clean and dry face, avoid eye and lip area. Leave for ten to fifteen minutes and rinse off with warm water. Dry the skin delicately and apply a light, moisturing cream.
Of course sage is also a magical plant. Nostradamus mentioned its powerful properties and for centuries the herb was supposed to attract love. With this in mind, you might appreciate the following tip:
How to attract love
Make three holes in a sage leaf, procure a hair of your beloved and thread it through the first hole. Push one of your own hairs through the second. Join both together in the third hole. Make sure that they don’t fall out of the holes and – very important – your sweetheart must not notice anything. Now bury the leaf under the threshold or the doormat of the adored house. He or she will stay with you forever and never betray you… (Extracted from Storia, scienza e mito delle erbe aromatiche e officinali, Anneliese Rabl, published 2004, Spazio Tre, Milan)
Anneliese Rabl …. finding a life in Tuscany