When it comes to winter foods, sage is a perfect match. Not only does this robust herb stand up well to slow-simmered casseroles and meats, it’s also well-equipped to weather the winter garden in USDA Zones 5 and higher. And it’s one of the best herbs to winter over indoors.
• Of all the garden sages (Salvia officinalis), the green-leaved varieties such as common garden sage, ‘Holt’s Mammoth’ and ‘Berggarten’ are the easiest to grow and the hardiest choice for cold winter weather.
• Green sage is also the best choice for cooking, with just the right balance of pine, citrus and camphor flavors. Purple, tricolor and golden sages are more sensitive to cold and often overpower dishes with their strong camphorlike flavor.
• Keep sage at its best by storing whole dried leaves in an airtight container. Crush the dried leaves between your hands before cooking, then add to your recipe.
• Fresh sage tastes more lemony than the dried leaves. Insert fresh leaves in a turkey or chicken before baking, wrap leaves around small birds before roasting, or lay on top of a pork or beef roast. Chop fresh leaves and sprinkle over a homemade pizza, or add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon minced fresh leaves to your favorite biscuit recipe.
• Sage pairs well with meats and meat pies, cheese and egg dishes, winter squash and sweet potatoes, stuffing, potatoes, anything tomato, rice and beans. Herbs that complement it include parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic and bay leaf.
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Contributing Editor Kris Wetherbee lives and gardens in western Oregon.