The medicinal and fragrant sage, known by its Latin name as Salvia officinalis, and regional Croatian names ofžalfija, divlji kuš, slavulja and pitomi pelin, is used for making essential oils that help with various ailments, such as respiratory and gastrointestinal infections and swelling, due to its soothing effects. This plant grows wild in the form of short bushes on rocky ground in sunny and dry areas, so it can be found in areas characterised by a Mediterranean climate, such as the Croatian coastline. Its oblong, grey-green leaves are picked in April, before the plant flowers, and the flowers themselves are picked in May and June.
Chopped-up sage is often used to make a herbal tea that helps with respiratory diseases, while dried sage leaves boiled in milk serve as a cough remedy for people of all ages. Sage and honey can also be used to make an aromatic brandy (or rakija) – a large amount of sage leaves is soaked in a neutral-flavoured grape brandy called lozovača for nearly a month; after that, the brandy is strained and mixed with honey, and then matured in bottles. Sage can also be used to make wine – sage leaves are added to red wine, such as the Blue Frankish, Plavac or Terrano, and left for a few weeks; the wine is then strained and served as a drink.
Sage is used for cooking either fresh or dried, but it makes an intense condiment so it doesn’t pair well with other spices. It can be used with butter as a simple sauce for pasta dishes, or added to veal “under the bell”, lamb, game or other meats, as well as fish, and it will also improve the taste of many soups. Sage goes well with cooked offal and fattier foods as it stimulates digestion, and it was once also used for preparing sausages because of its antibacterial properties. Sage leaves can even be fried and roasted, which turns them into a delicacy that is best served with sparkling wines for a truly special experience.