2014-11-20 / From The Garden

Sage and Marjoram Spice Up Thanksgiving

By Cynthia Gibson

What is Thanksgiving dinner without the scent of turkey and sage wafting through the house? Sage and marjoram were the two major herbs brought by the English to the New World. Colonists embraced not only their pungent fragrances, but used them for medicinal purposes as well.

Now is the time to pick the last of the leaves before the first snowfall. Both herbs are perennials and will keep giving year after year. Sage, in particular, can easily grow into a small woody shrub in five years.

Sage and marjoram leaves dry very quickly, usually in two days. So if picked this week, they will be ready for turkey stuffing. Do not be deceived; the tiny leaves of marjoram pack a mean punch. As a dried herb, it is four times more powerful than fresh leaves. Err on the side of caution and moderation. If too much is used, your stuffing may be bitter.

Tucking fresh stalks of sage or marjoram under the fowl’s skin is an added bonus for the taste buds. Placing stalks inside the cavity with a large sliced onion gives off a heavenly aroma and gently permeates the meat. Either technique adds subtle flavor, not an overwhelming taste.


Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. If buying sage or marjoram in the supermarket, buy the leaves, not the powder spice. The flavor will last longer. The old standby, a yellow box of Bell’s Seasoning with the famous turkey on the front, has been an addition to American turkeys and stuffing since the late 1800s. This is a fine seasoning. In addition to sage and marjoram, the recipe also includes ground ginger, oregano, and rosemary. That is quite exotic for a Victorian product that is still on the grocery shelves today.

For a change of flavor, add dried sage to the meal’s biscuits or dinner rolls. For divine popovers, add a half-teaspoon of marjoram leaves to the batter. They come out of the oven steaming with the fragrance of these very old and traditional herbs. There is always room for a new tradition to make for a happy Thanksgiving.

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