Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) is a Salvia species used in cooking, baking and beverages. When crushed, the leaves have a tangy fragrance and flavor of pineapple. The bright, red flowers are also edible and taste like a combination of citrus and mint. Unlike common sage (Salvia officinalis) and Greek sage (Salvia fruticosa), pineapple sage usually isn't available in markets. Instead, cooks grow it in their gardens.
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The Salvia genus gains its name from the Latin verb "salvare," which means "to save." Many ancient cultures, including the Greeks and Romans, used various kinds of sage medicinally to treat health problems, including indigestion and heartburn. Culinary use was a secondary purpose for cultivating sages. A 2009 Irish university study, however, shows that common sage may aid digestion of meat products. Various kinds of salvia are still used today in alternative medicines such as teas.
Savory Main Dishes
When mixed with ingredients such as lemon zest, garlic and butter, chopped pineapple sage makes a good flavoring to rub on and stuff under the skin of a roasting chicken. Because it's milder and sweeter than common sage, pineapple sage often is used in greater quantities in recipes such as pestos -- with parmesan, macademia nuts and lemon zest -- for mild fish such as cod.
One favorite way of using pineapple sage flowers is to add a few tablespoons of roughly chopped blossoms to a buttery pound cake, where they add flavor as well as a decorative look. Pineapple sage usually doesn't bloom until late summer at the earliest, so that is a consideration when planning use of such a recipe. A bunch of fresh, chopped pineapple sage leaves is a tangy addition to a nectarine galette, which is a kind of tart.
Crushed and rubbed inside a glass, pineapple sage leaves add flavor to a cool glass of water. They can also be pureed with citrusy fruits to create cool, summery drinks such as agua fresca.