#AdventBotany – Getting stuffed at Christmas: Sage

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Common sage specimen, seeds and illustration on a 19th century herbarium sheet from Leo Grindon's cultivated plant collection
Common sage specimen, seeds and illustration on a 19th century herbarium sheet from Leo Grindon’s cultivated plant collection

There are many more gastronomically interesting options available at Christmas time, but I’m still always drawn to the reassuringly traditional sage and onion stuffing. Nowadays, in addition to stuffing poultry, sage is most commonly used to flavour other meat dishes (particularly sausages in British cuisine). However, its scientific name, Salvia officinalis, shows its heritage as a medicinal herb. The species name ‘officinalis’ comes from the Latin word officina referring to a monastic storeroom for herbs and medicines. Sage was recommended for all kinds of ills, from wounds and sore throats to hair care and fertility problems. There’s something about this suggestion for ‘Great Sage’ from Gerard’s Herball, however, which seems especially appropriate for overindulgent holidays:

‘Sage is singular good for the head and braine, it quickeneth the sense and memory, strengtheneth the sinews….’ John Gerard, 1597

This year, perhaps an extra bit of sage with my turkey could give me the edge over my competitors in any after-dinner Christmas boardgames!

John Gerard's herball, 1597
John Gerard’s herball, 1597

 

Sage is in the mint family (also known as the Lamiacaea). Many of the plants in this family are aromatic, but sage also shows some other very recognisable characteristics such as a square stem, leaves in opposite pairs and flowers with bilateral symmetry with the five petals fused to give the appearance of an upper and a lower lip. Originating from the Mediterranean, sage enjoys plenty of sunshine and doesn’t like to get too wet over winter, but is quite tolerant of low temperatures. The furry leaves help to keep insect pests at bay, but cultivars which flower freely are very attractive to pollinating insects such as honeybees and many different bumblebees.

sage

The sage flower has an interesting mechanism for getting pollinated. As pollinator enters the flower looking for nectar it has to push past the base of the stamens which are blocking the way. This acts as a lever, so that the stamens tip forwards and leave pollen on the back of the insect. When it visits another flower, the insect can brush against the female stigma depositing the pollen. Some bees have learnt to cheat, however, and you can find small holes at the base of flowers where a bee has bitten through and drunk the nectar from the outside.

19th century botanical teaching model of a sage flower produced by Brendel, Germany.
19th century botanical teaching model of a sage flower produced by Brendel, Germany.
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50 thoughts on “#AdventBotany – Getting stuffed at Christmas: Sage

    […] For the full story of sage and much more on the amazing plants at Manchester Herbarium see Herbology Manchester. […]

    whiteknightsbiodiversity said:
    December 8, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Reblogged this on adventbotany and commented:
    I love the floral model

      Rachel responded:
      December 8, 2016 at 12:21 pm

      So do we! Our next exhibition (opening May) is going to be all about biological models, and as Donna Young is helping us we’re going to have plenty of the botanical ones in there.

    John Ball said:
    December 8, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    Dear Rachel

    Thank you for your very interesting post #AdventBotany – Getting stuffed at Christmas: Sage

    Coincidentally I was giving a talk last night at Prestwich Library about the Wildflowers of Lancashire on behalf of Lancashire Wildlife Trust and mentioned both Leo Grinden and John Gerrard showing my self in the guise of John Garrard.

    You have provided lots of extra information for me in the post and I hope to include some of it in my next presentation.

    Thanks again, keep put the good work and have a Very Happy Christmas with lots of Sage and Onion Stuffing to accompany the Turkey

    Kind Regards

    John

    John Ball Lancashire Wildlife Trust Speaker Team Presenting a portfolio of talks throughout the county j.ball99@icloud.com Home Phone: 01257 269471 Mobile: 07961 177320 VoIP Phone: 01257 754701 (Connects to laptop when on-line. If unavailable records and emails me a voice mail message) Skype Name: Lensman400

    >

    susielindau said:
    December 16, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    I have tons of sage in my herb garden! Maybe I’ll brew a cup to help me prepare for hosting tonight’s Christmas party. I could use a clear head. Wish me luck!

    ADaughtersHero said:
    December 16, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    As an aspiring medicinal herbalist, I love this post. I recently discovered the meaning of officinalis in my studies!

    Pamela Morse said:
    December 16, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    I grow salvias for taste and beauty. They are indeed versatile and medicinal.

    […] via #AdventBotany – Getting stuffed at Christmas: Sage — Herbology Manchester […]

    ellenbest24 said:
    December 16, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Wow who would have guessed … possibly an old sage. Seriously a brilliantly informative post.

    arinastronomy said:
    December 16, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    nice post. helped me a lot. maybe i can help you. pls see my posts too:arin’s world of astronomy!

    […] via #AdventBotany – Getting stuffed at Christmas: Sage — Herbology Manchester […]

    oshrivastava said:
    December 16, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Reblogged this on oshriradhekrishnabole.

    Volkanux said:
    December 16, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    I am not a big fan of botany..
    But I am a big fan of Christmas..
    I like this story. Interesting..

    manjiriv28 said:
    December 16, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Nice post it helped me a lot . Thank you

    coolsulaksh said:
    December 16, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    That’s cool!

    Beverly Blaine said:
    December 16, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Great post! It’s making me hungry.

    Chukwu Innocent said:
    December 17, 2016 at 12:39 am

    Thank you for sharing this post. I am a herbalist, and you have just added a great knowledge to my Profession. The sage information is a good one.

    Ecolodge Adventures said:
    December 17, 2016 at 12:55 am

    Great read

    […] via #AdventBotany – Getting stuffed at Christmas: Sage — Herbology Manchester […]

    […] via #AdventBotany – Getting stuffed at Christmas: Sage — Herbology Manchester […]

    writegill said:
    December 17, 2016 at 6:40 am

    Enticing and edifying – thank you!

    shreyovi said:
    December 17, 2016 at 7:57 am

    This is very informative. Though in Indian cooking we don’t use much sage., but other herbs like coriander leaves and bay leaves.But its true adding a bit of herbs bring a difference to any cooking.

    Richard Fox said:
    December 17, 2016 at 8:20 am

    Very interesting piece! Reminded me of something (less than serious) that I wrote a while back – see https://richardhfox.wordpress.com/2015/09/18/sage-scrunching-for-pleasure-and-profit/

    adambutchart said:
    December 17, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    I’m so excited for Christmas

    […] via #AdventBotany – Getting stuffed at Christmas: Sage — Herbology Manchester […]

    Daniel96 said:
    December 18, 2016 at 2:09 am

    Awesome Post, different then the typical christmas posts

    claudialarssonblog said:
    December 18, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    Love all Sages.. clary is one of my favs for sprays and such. thank you!

    nomondlomo said:
    December 18, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Nice learning more

    CoachNeena said:
    December 19, 2016 at 2:06 am

    Great post! I gifted “The Drunken Botanist” to my hubby for Christmas last year and there is all kinds of interesting information like this in there. I enjoyed reading your post.

    cmoas said:
    December 20, 2016 at 2:05 am

    Thank you thank you! I love the information! I am a Sage burner myself it is good for warding off bad spirits/juju and this just proves how powerful this plant is! Appreciate it!

    Mayzeshop said:
    December 20, 2016 at 3:32 am

    Christmas with peace

    Yobboo's said:
    December 20, 2016 at 3:36 am

    Great post and i am jealous at you lol….
    make it large !

    bluenymphs said:
    December 20, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Love this post… Lots more learned about sage….

    […] a través de #AdventBotany – Getting stuffed at Christmas: Sage — Herbology Manchester […]

    PescetarianPleasures said:
    December 20, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    This was very informative, thanks! I never knew sage was in the mint family!

    thealohalounge said:
    December 20, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    So interesting! I have always been fascinated by the medicinal properties of plants. Thank you for writing this!

    SallyAnn of Green & Folk said:
    December 20, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    “Let a fool hold his tongue and he will pass for a sage.”

    The Juris Doctor said:
    December 20, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    Enjoyed your post…..learned something I never knew!!

    noellemitchell said:
    December 21, 2016 at 4:43 am

    I love reading about herbs and history! Great article.

    […] via #AdventBotany – Getting stuffed at Christmas: Sage — Herbology Manchester […]

    Yobboo's said:
    December 21, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Yobboo.wordpress.com

    Make yOur Life Better

    goldenbrodie said:
    December 21, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Great information on a super format. I’m following you now and hope you come and visit me and Brodie, as well. Merry Christmas

    pat@alldayieat said:
    December 21, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    my sage needs to flower !!

    aruncs03 said:
    December 26, 2016 at 4:18 am

    Hello

    parameswariv said:
    December 27, 2016 at 10:33 am

    Good very impressed

    TheFrugalMillennial said:
    December 28, 2016 at 4:51 am

    Great article! 😀 my mom was a botanist, when she saw your article she got really into it. And i’ve never seen her that curious and happy in a long time, like she found someone or something that can relate to her profession 😊 anyways, thank you for that.

    Out of context, feel free to check out our blog 😁 http://www.thefrugalmillennial.com
    Godbless! 😊

    Misty Meadows Homestead said:
    December 30, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    I love bees and there ability to adapt. I was unaware of how fascinating sage really was! I can’t wait to grow more this spring! So happy to have found (and am now following) your blog. I hope you’ll visit us too. Happy new year!

    cathysrealcountrygardencom said:
    December 31, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    I never knew what officinalis meant in a Latin name! Many thanks.

    lolipop7769 said:
    December 31, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    wow! great info, I totally enjoyed this thanks!

    julieblack001 said:
    January 5, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    Great read! My favourite part of Christmas is the sage & onion stuffing and this article was so interesting. Who would have thought – a medicinal herb!

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