Let Us Now Praise - and Eat More -- Sage

It's growing all over right now - eat it!

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By David Hammond

About ten years ago at the American Indian Center's annual pow-wow at UIC Forum, I bought some sage. It was dried and wrapped in a bundle. I was told it was used for "purifying" homes. I let the bundle sit on my desk for a few years gathering dust. Then I threw it out. I didn't know what to do with it; I later learned that Native American people cleanse their households through the burning of sage indoors, a practice called "smudging."

I also wasn't exactly sure what to do with the sage that had been growing in our garden. I'm guessing the former owners of our house planted it. I noticed it growing every year, but I never used it because I didn't know how to use it.

Now, around this time of year, I eat sage several times every week. I fry the sage leaves in butter over medium heat; when they get crisp, I sprinkle them over pasta or scrambled eggs. I even eat the fried leaves like chips. Unlike most chips, though, each sage leaf packs a lot of flavor and nutrients.

Sage has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and get this: Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior (June, 2003) reported that research indicates sage could enhance human memory.

Sage has been known since Greek and Roman times as a highly beneficial herb; the Latin root of its name is "salvere," which means "to be saved." The connection between this herb and the process of saving probably relates to the early Roman practice of using the anti-oxidant-containing sage leaves to help keep meat from spoiling.

The flavor of fresh sage is not mild: it has a somewhat evergreen flavor, and when the leaves are fresh (not dried) there's an aromatic quality and sweetness to them.

We now have several types of sage growing in our backyards, some thin-leaved and other flat-leaved.

They all taste good.

Walking around the village, I see a lot of sage growing in backyards, and I hope people are using it whenever they have the chance. They really should. It's an amazing herb. It tastes very good and who knows, you might even be able to cleanse your home spiritually and physically with it.

I've seen fresh sage sold at the Oak Park Farmers Market, but it's fairly pricey for an herb that you can easily grow in your backyard or on your porch in a planter. Sage requires very little attention (in the past, ours has gone for weeks without watering), and you will be surprised how much a few fried sage leaves can improve a plate of pasta or eggs. Heck, it might even improve your memory.

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