Sage resists cold and snow well. Winter leaves in the Swiss Alps tend to be flavourful but small.
My garden at 1,100 metres is mostly under snow. At least the snow and sky are beautiful! But poking their heads out of the snow are some herbs, notably sage and a bit of diehard rosemary.
Sage paired with foods, wines
The sage leaves tend to be small, but very flavourful. Quickly stir-fried, they make a fun snack with a glass of well-chilled Valais Fendant de Sierre, such as the one for CHF13.50 cellar price from Domaine des Crêtes in Sierre. Other options, if you want more powerful aromas to balance the sage, for example, are their Muscat, CHF17, or Païen, aka Heida and Savagnin blanc, CHF19.
Alternative fried sage uses: crumble the leaves onto the tops of soups (especially pumpkin), baked potatoes with plain yogurt and pastas. These crunchy and milder than raw bits of sage are equally good toppings for green beans and broccoli, with a bit of fresh lemon juice added to the vegetables at the end of cooking . Use less sage and add it to fresh goats cheese: it works with a powerful Petite Arvine such as the top winner from the Etoiles du Valais cantonal selected wines, Provins Petite Arvine Maître de Chais 2017, CHF27.90 cellar price.
How to fry sage
Wash, pat them dry with paper towels and/or let them dry completely in the sun. You can do them wok-style with a hot wok to which you add cold colza oil and immediately add the leaves. Gently shake the pan. Fifteen seconds is enough – don’t let them brown. Remove the leaves to a sheet of paper towel and grind coarse salt over them.
Larger leaves are best done in a frypan with olive oil, which gives a wonderful flavour combination. My recipes recommends a total cooking time of 15 seconds over medium heat, gently turning the leaves once. They and Martha Stewart deep fry the leaves in a saucepan. In either case, set the leaves on a paper towel briefly to let the excess oil drain off.
The Italians have, of course, been making salvia fritta for a very long time – same idea, just batter-fried. Here’s a recipe from Memoire di Angelina.
One more use for sage
Sage is one of the wonders of the herbal world for me. Here’s a link to an article I wrote 5 years ago about how helpful sage can be when you lose your voice.