“Why should a man die who has sage in his garden? ” Medieval Proverb
There is an old English saying that eating sage every day in May will grant immortality. So it’s not too late to partake in this sage pesto and enjoy the many medicinal, age-defying properties of this magical herb. And while it might seem strange to eat sage in spring, it was once relished in practically everything, from stews, meats, wine, cakes, puddings and yes, even pesto – all year long.
Today we’ve mostly relegated the flavour of sage to heartier fall dishes, like Thanksgiving stuffing, which is sad, because we’re overlooking one of the most widely used and beloved herbs in human history. Believed to grant longevity and wisdom, everyone from the Egyptians, Arabs, Greeks, to the Chinese, considered sage a cure-all herb and turns out they were pretty bang on. Today we know sage works to soothe chronic disease, support digestion, cool inflammation, boost our immune system, and sharpen the mind. Sage does indeed, help turn back the ravages of time.
Belonging to the aromatic Lamiaceae (mint) family along with other culinary healers like oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme and basil, it bears grey-green edible leaves and flowers that can range in colour from blue and purple to white or pink. And right now, many varieties are aburst with aromatic blossoms. I found these in our community herb garden, heady with the sap of spring, their tall stalks buzzing with bees.
Now every kitchen witch knows that spring flowers are a powerful form of plant magic, enhancing youth, romance and beauty – and the blossoms of herbs are known to be especially potent. And who doesn’t want a little of that? But vanity aside, it was the sage blossoms deep sweet scent that inspired me to explore their culinary pleasures. And what better recipe for spring magic than pesto?
Herb and herb blossoms pestos are a spring tradition in Italian cuisine. And with their liberal addition of cheese, garlic, roasted nuts and plenty of oil, a pesto seemed an ideal complement for sage’s potent flavour. But make no mistake, this is no light green pesto, this is a full palate sensation. It deserves a heavier bread (like the pumpernickel pictured above) otherwise its rich flavours threaten to overwhelm.
But together their full-bodied flavours are so satisfying, you’ll feel like you’ve eaten a meal. And afterwards, I encourage you to sit back, rest a moment, and savour the healing magic of sage.
Sage Blossom Pesto
- 2 cups sage flowers (and a few leaves)
- 1/4 cups roasted nuts (cashew, walnut or pine nuts)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup of onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
- Pull the purple blossoms out of the papery casings.
- Pulse the blossoms and leaves with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor until you get the consistency and texture you like (i.e. chunky or smooth).
- Place in a serving dish and top with a dollop of olive oil and squirt of lemon.
- You’re ready to eat!