Saturday, December 10, 2011
ARTEMISIA: THE OTHER SAGE
When I wrote about sage the other day, I mentioned sagebrush, which is not sage at all, but Artemisia tridentata. Artemisia is another widespread genus with hundreds of species, some of which are useful in perfume making.
Artemisia tridentata, commonly known as North American sagebrush, is one of the shrubby, drought-resistant bushes that grows all over the western part of the US in desert-like areas, including Eastern Washington. The plant is woody and tough, with leathery, silvery-gray leaves and yellow flowers. The essential oil, made from the leaves and stems, not the flowers, has a dry, pungent fragrance that’s a little like garden sage, but much more “wild”- smelling. If you could call a plant “gamey”, sagebrush would fit that description. I use this oil in my Arizona fragrance as part of the desert vegetation note.
Artemisia absinthium, or wormwood, is another shrubby plant with silvery-green leaves, and was the ingredient for which absinthe was named before it was regulated and reformulated using anise flavoring. Its traditional medicinal use is to eliminate parasitic worms from the gut. Historically, it was also used to flavor vermouth and some other wines, and may still be used that way in small amounts. So far I have not found this essential oil for sale by any of my usual sources, but I did locate some to try, and it should be on its way.
Artemisia dracunculus is garden-variety tarragon, used in cooking. It’s smaller than the other Artemesia varieties, the leaves are greener, and it has a characteristic fragrance that falls somewhere in the space between anise, basil, and sweet clover. I used tarragon in Kingston Ferry as part of the aromatic herbal component.
[All plant photos from Wikimedia]