This time of year the common garden herb sage gets its moment. It is the classic aromatic used in turkey dressing for Thanksgiving.
In the Garden
Sage thrives in warm, sunny areas and prefers soil on the dry side. The leaves can be harvested year-around in mild climates, where it remains evergreen. Regular cutting and trimming of the plant will help to keep it from getting woody and failing open in the center.
• The young, tender leaves at the growing tips of the stems have better flavor, not as heavy and resinous as the older, rougher leaves.
• Cut woody stems and bundle. Hang dry.
• Removes dried leaves and store them whole in glass jars.
• Harvest flowers for fresh use.
The more flavorful sages for cooking are the large rounded leaf, traditional garden sage. The purple leaf variety lends beautiful color to fresh salads. The leaves are used to flavor cheese, pork sausage and fatty, heavy-flavored meats. It is most recognized as a seasoning mixed with onion for stuffing turkey and other game birds. Use sage sparingly until you become familiar with its deep, musky flavor. It can easily overpower a recipe. The flowers of sage can be used as a garnish on roasted meats.
Make your own Poultry Seasoning
I use this dried mix to season dressing for turkey, but it is also great as a seasoning for ground pork to make sausage.
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1½ teaspoons seasoning salt
½ teaspoon rubbed sage (see note about rubbed sage)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Crush light with a pestle to mix the flavors together. Store the dried mix in a tightly sealed glass jar.
Sage is well known as an antiseptic cleansing herb. Infuse the leaves in water to create a strong brew. Gargle to soothe sore throat. Like many other pungent Mediterranean herbs planted in the garden, deer stay away. Plant a hedge of sage around roses to keep deer from eating all the blossoms.