Salvia officinalis (also called garden sage) is a perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, gayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae and native to the Mediterranean region.
Salvia officinalis was described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. It has been grown for centuries in the Old World for its food and healing properties, and was often described in old herbals for the many miraculous properties attributed to it.
The second most commonly used species of sage is Salvia lavandulaefolia.
Salvia officinalis has been used since ancient times for warding off evil, snakebites, increasing women's fertility, and more.
Theophrastus wrote about two different sages, a wild undershrub he called sphakos, and a similar cultivated plant he called elelisphakos.
Pliny the Elder said the latter plant was called salvia by the Romans, and used as a diuretic, a local anaesthetic for the skin, a styptic, and for other uses.
Charlemagne recommended the plant for cultivation in the early middle Ages.
In Britain, sage has for generations been listed as one of the essential herbs along with parsley, rosemary, and thyme (as in the folk song "Scarborough Fair”).
It has a savory, slightly peppery flavor.
Sage appears in the 14th and 15th centuries in a "Cold Sage Sauce", known in French, English and Lombard cookery, probably traceable to its appearance in "Le Viandier de Taillevent".
It appears in many European cuisines, notably Italian, Balkan and Middle Eastern cookery.
In Italian cuisine, it is an essential condiment for saltimbocca and other dishes, favoured with fish.
In British and American cooking, it is traditionally served as sage and onion stuffing, an accompaniment to roast turkey or chicken at Christmas or Thanksgiving Day.
Other dishes include pork casserole, Sage Derby cheese and Lincolnshire sausages.