We love sage! And yes, we are writing this article in the midst of summer, for it’s the first harvest round in the herb garden. This year, the sage bushes are growing less lush than usually, due to the lack in rain during the last few years. Still, we pick a few handfuls of young leaves in the morning, when they are freshest. Now in mid-August, the leaves are covered with a hint of dew around 6 am, which makes them just soft enough to be used as syrup.
Only few people know that by drinking a warm cup of sage tea, you will stop sweating immediately, and this effect will last for a few hours. So drinking sage tea in the morning will help you stay just fine during the heat. And we need that in Venice right now. Afa (heat) this year doesn’t spare our garden, so some areas of the terrace simply can’t be accessed after 9am in the morning.
The sage bushes grow in a dry corner of the garden, and obviously, they don’t mind occasional infiltrations of salt water (the lowest level of the garden is flooded during excessive high tide levels = acqua alta). They thrive next to the beans (fave) and lemon mints. Yes, this is a mixed vegetable garden, and we’ve come to learn which plant loves its neighbors and which doesn’t. So, drinking a cup of sage will cool you down immediately, but then, we also use the leaves to make sage syrup. Diluted with still water and a spoonful of freshly pressed lemon juice, it makes for the perfect refreshment, and might even work when flavored with a hint of pomegranate juice and cinnamon, in the early evening to cool off.
Also, we keep a few bottles of the sage syrup for the winter. In case you catch flu, this is Nonna Lina’s collaudated remedy to lower fewers that often come with colds. It works better than aspirine, by the way :-)
Preparing the sage syrup is so easy: For 500 ml of syrup, use one handful of freshly picked leaves. Bring 500 ml water, the sage leaves, and 250 gr sugar to the boil, leave to stand the mixture for 15 minutes. Heat the syrup once more and drain it. Here you go! Your bottle will keep intact for a few months, if you know how to store it in your dispensa (pantry), in a cool, dark and dry place.