By Vicky Babcock
Sage, considered a panacea among herbalists, has been prized as such for thousands of years. This is reflected in its official name, Salivia officinalis, which derives from the Latin salvere, “to be saved.”
Native to the Mediterranean, this super-herb has been used for everything from improving memory to controlling night sweats. Its list of medicinal uses is long and varied, earning it—along with its culinary uses—the title, “Herb of the Year,” from the International Herb Association in 2001. Ancients believed the herb would ward off evil and 14th century Europeans used it as a protection against witchcraft. Arab physicians in the 10th century believed it could promote immortality. Sage was used to treat typhoid and is one of the herbs contained in “Four Thieves Vinegar,” which is said to be a concoction derived to ward off the plague.
Studies have had some success in treating mild cases of Alzheimer’s with sage; it is well documented in its use to reduce menopausal sweats and was used as a treatment for night sweats in TB patients as well. It has been used to aid patients with type 2 diabetes. Research suggests that the presence of volatile oil in this herb is largely responsible for most of its therapeutic properties, especially its anti-septic, astringent and relaxing properties. Sage is used internally in the treatment of anxiety and depression. It has been used externally to treat insect bites, skin, throat, mouth and gum infections. It was thought to promote strength and longevity and believed to cure warts. American Indians used it as a toothbrush.
And let’s not forget its culinary uses: although in the States sage is mostly associated with turkey and stuffing, its possibilities are endless. Try using sage in soups and sauces, especially tomato-based. Use it in omelets, as a flavoring for chicken or fish or add it to homemade breads or biscuits. Or try a brew of sage tea. As with all herbs, it is best to add towards the end of your baking, as excessive cooking reduces the flavor.
If you choose only one herb for your garden, choose sage. Add it to your diet; your body will thank you.
Scarborough Potato Bread
Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme…
Makes: 2 small loaves
1 medium potato, cooked and mashed, 1 cup liquid reserved
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons lukewarm water
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2-1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Drizzle mashed potato with oil. If cold, heat potato and liquid to lukewarm.
Dissolve sugar in water in a large bowl. Stir in yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add potato and 1 cup reserved cooking liquid. Gradually beat in whole-wheat flour. Beat for 1 minute. Stir in parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage and salt. Gradually beat in enough white flour until the dough is stiff. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding just enough flour to prevent sticking,. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Turn to coat and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Punch the dough down. Turn out onto work surface and knead several times. Divide dough in half and shape each piece into a ball. Place loaves several inches apart on the baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.
Half an hour before baking, place a baking stone or inverted baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Place a small baking pan on the rack below. Preheat oven to 450°F.
Pour 1 cup water into the baking pan in the oven. Place the baking sheet on the baking stone (or inverted baking sheet) and bake the loaves for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400° and bake until the loaves are golden and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool before slicing.
Try these toasted with butter and honey!
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