Jun 5, 2013

Sage Officina

All of my houseplants have come together for a family reunion on my porch. They are the last things I will move in my transition out of my apartment, along with a few shampoo bottles and precious vinegars and oils. They look good together, my plants: the orphaned orchid I rescued five years ago from the Oberlin College greenhouse next to the aloe vera that was an offspring of my godmother Meme's; the glossy-leaved coffee tree hauled back across the Pacific by my intrepid parents settled in beside the jade I inherited from an old roommate who now lives in South America.

The sage is only a baby, planted in late April in an old feta tin from work that I filled to the brim with dirt. It's made quite a home inside this once-briny tin, and I am proud. I am remembering now a dream I had last night of being on an island in Greece lounging in the hot sun. There were herbs and flowers and tan people. Then suddenly the skies darkened and I was running for cover from a tornado that whipped across the now-Oklahoma land and I was diving in and out of storm cellars, down ladders where people waited below, their faces white with fear and yelling at me to close the hatch.

I know these images came from the tornados that leveled areas of Oklahoma this spring, including the most recent with winds of 300 mph. Having never witnessed a tornado, the mystery and power of this type of storm stuns me into an awe that invades my sleep. While moving is stressful and unsettling, I cannot imagine the grief of having your home whipped to rubble in a matter of minutes. I hope the people affected by this storm find some peace in the coming weeks, after all they have been through.

Common sage, known as Salvia officinalis, is used in many culinary applications, but has had a long history of medicinal use as well. As I learned from the internets, the epithet 'officinalis' comes from the Latin 'officina' which refers to the room at a monastery where herbs and medicines were kept. My 'officina' is a sunny porch, where I can indulge in other medicines as well, namely herb-infused food and drinks.

One spring luxury I've been enjoying lately is rhubarb, whose crisp stalks can be transformed into the most delicious pies, sauces and spirits. After making a highly-spirited rhubarb-fennel punch for my brother's engagement party (which all of the kids thought was pink lemonade - ergh), I decided to experiment with further flavor combinations, and stumbled on the glorious combination of rhubarb and sage. Combined with a little red onion, ginger and honey, these flavors come together to form a delightful savory sauce that is tart and tangy and sweet all at once. It was perfect alongside the roast chicken my mother and I made after hauling heavy boxes down rickety stairs, but it'd also be glorious with pork loin, potato latkes, or duck. This sauce was the texture of apple sauce but with a flavor ten times better. You must make some. Immediately.

Rhubarb Sage Sauce

Makes about 3 cups

2 TB olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3-4 cups chopped rhubarb
4 TB grated fresh ginger
4 TB chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 cups water
4 TB honey or more to taste

In a saucepan on medium heat, pour in your olive oil and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add the rhubarb and ginger cook for 2 minutes then add your water. As the rhubarb begins to cook down add a pinch of salt. Next add the fresh sage and continue to stir until the rhubarb has broken down completely and the sauce is the texture of apple sauce (add water if it looks a bit dry).  Next add your honey and stir well. Taste it, and if it still tastes quite tart add a bit more honey.

Enjoy with roast chicken, pork loin, duck or potato latkes!


  1. YAH! I recipe for rhubarb that isn't a heavily sweetened pie! Thanks so much!

  2. May I say, "OMG"? Too bad, already said it. Rhubarb-sage, inspired!


  3. Holy... I must make some immediately