Winter savory, the perennial savory has the same properties as its summer relative, the annual Summer savory. Its leaves are thicker and stronger than Summer Savory, more aromatic with a sharper thyme type flavour. The small perennial shrubs are semi-evergreen, retaining their leaves in all but the coldest gardens and remain useful all year round.
Easy to grow, the plants make an attractive border plant for any culinary herb garden.
Hardy to minus 12°C (10°F) Winter savory plants have a low bunching habit. In temperate climates they go dormant in winter, putting out leaves on the bare stems again in the spring.
The plants are surprisingly ornamental. Typically growing 15 to 30cm (6 to 15in) tall, they make a good edging plant which may be clipped for a formal effect. Although often grown in the herb garden, they deserve a place in the flower border or rock garden, and their attractive flowers are a welcome decorative bonus, appearing earlier than those of summer savory.
Savory is not as woody as thyme, not as piney as rosemary, and not as pungent as sage. It also has the ability to stay flavourful throughout the cooking process. Savory is a great mixing herb, it is said that it brings all other herbs together in a unique taste. It blends well with different culinary oreganos, thymes and basils and can be added to meat, poultry or fish.
Famous for making its mark on beans, it is often referred to as the ‘bean herb’ because it has an incredible flavour affinity with all types of beans. Dried Savory also perks up stuffings and can be mixed with sage, thyme, and bay. Add to turkey or pork with fennel seed, cayenne pepper, and thyme. Or, add a pinch to chicken salad or hearty soup.
Its small leaves are the perfect complement to herb cheeses or as last-minute additions to sautés. There are very few dishes that a little Winter Savory won't improve.
Savories make good plants for the very front of a border. They are durable plants and can be grown in a wide range of climates and conditions. Both types rejoice in a well-drained, alkaline soil in full sun, at least 6 hours per day.
Summer savory needs a loamier soil than winter savory, which prefers the kind of gravelly soil one finds on mountain slopes (Satureja montana means 'mountain savory'), but too much manure or fertiliser will weaken savory plants. Set winter savory plants 18 inches apart; summer savory, 6 to 9 inches apart.
Savory also does well in containers, remember to put a good layer of stones at the bottom for drainage and keep the plant on the dry side. A feed every month with general purpose liquid plant food will be enough.
Winter Savory is better sown indoors in pots and kept at temperatures of around 18 to 20°C (65 to 70°F).
the seeds can be slow and erratic, so a little patience may be required.
Sow late winter to spring. Plant in pots or trays containing a good seed compost at a depth of 2mm (¼ in). Transplanting the seedlings when large enough to handle.
Harden off and plant out, space about 35cm apart (16in) apart. Keep the plants well watered for optimum growth.
The herbs respond favourably to moderate fertilisation. If you over-fertilise, the plants may produce lots of foliage, but with little flavour.
Keep winter savories’ woody growth pruned to force new, nonwoody growth, and shear off flowers after they bloom. Do not cut the plant back in autumn, all those stems which appear dead will leaf out again in spring.
For preserving herbs or distilling oils, harvest at their peak of maturity when blooms are just beginning to appear. At this point the leaves contain the highest concentration of their essential oils. Harvesting should be done in mid-morning after the dew has dried. Never harvest in the heat of the day, as transpiration of the plant reduces the level of oils in the foliage.
Once the plant flowers cut the whole plant down. Hang small bunches from the ceiling in a dry, dark location with some ventilation. Drying usually takes between one and two weeks. Once the herbs are completely dry, strip the leaves and place them in air-tight containers and store in a dark, dry location until you are ready to use them.
If you are growing for seed use, you need to harvest when the flower has matured and the seeds start to turn brown.
As a medicine, savory is used for treating several ailments. Savory is most often used for healing. Active ingredients of savory are carvacrol, p-cymene and tannins. It is an astringent and mild antiseptic.
Summer savory is said to increase sex drive, while Winter savory decreases it.
A tea made from summer savory is said to control diarrhoea, stomach ache and mild sore throat. In Europe, it is often taken by diabetics to reduce excessive thirst.
Both the old authorities and modern gardeners agree that a sprig of either of the Savorys rubbed on wasp and bee stings gives instant relief. An ointment made from savory works well for relief of minor rashes and skin irritations.
Savory blends well with other herbs such as basil, bay leaf, marjoram, thyme and rosemary. Savory also dries well. Dried, it is available year round unlike other herbs, is always added to recipes in large generous heaping spoonfuls.
Traditionally, it is used to season beans. It can also be used in sausages, stuffings, meat pies, soups, stews, rice and sauces for pork, lamb, veal and poultry. Add fresh leaves to salads, fish dishes and omelettes. Brew into fragrant, tangy tea; or add to vinegar for use in salad dressing.
Savory has the ability to stay flavourful throughout the cooking process but is best added at the last-minute additions to sautés. Even though it has a strong flavour when fresh, it does not hold up well to prolonged stewing.
Plant Savory with beans, sweet potatoes and onions to improve growth and flavour.
Grow near or next to Broad Beans and gather some Savory when harvesting the pods and cook together - it does wonders for the flavour. The secret is to have your plants 15cm (6in) tall by early May to plant out amongst the beans.
It discourages cabbage moths, Mexican bean beetles, sweet potato weevil and black aphids. Honey bees love it when it is in bloom.
Savory species are native to the Mediterranean region and have been used to enhance the flavour of food for over 2,000 years. During Caesar's reign, it is believed that the Romans introduced savory to England, where it quickly became popular both as a medicine and a cooking herb. The Saxons named it savory for its spicy, pungent taste. According to some sources, it was not actually cultivated until the ninth century. The Italians may have been among the first to grow savory as a kitchen herb. It is still used extensively in Italian recipes.
The two Savorys were among the strongest cooking herbs available to Europeans until world exploration and trade brought them tropical spices like black pepper. Both Savorys were noticed by Virgil as being among the most fragrant of herbs, and on this account recommended to be grown near bee-hives.
In Shakespeare's time, Savory was a familiar herb, we find it mentioned, together with the mints, marjoram and lavender, in The Winter's Tale.
The “Love Herb”
Savory has a reputation as an aphrodisiac. The genus's Latin name, Satureja, is attributed to the Roman writer Pliny and is a derivative of the word for 'satyr,' (the half-man, half-goat with the insatiable sexual appetite). According to lore, the satyrs lived in meadows of savory, thus implying that it was the herb that made them passionate.
This belief persisted over the years, and even as recently as this century noted French herbalist Messeque claimed savory was an essential ingredient in love potions he would make for couples. As a boy his father told him it was 'the herb of happiness.'
For hundreds of years, both Savorys have had a reputation for regulating sex drive. Winter savory was thought to decrease sexual desire, while summer savory was said to be an aphrodisiac. Naturally, summer savory became the more popular of the two!
- Additional Information
Packet Size 250mg Average Seed Count 620 Seeds Common Name Mountain Savory, Garden Savory Family Lamiaceae Genus Satureja Species montana Synonym Satureia montana Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Rose-white in July to September Height 30 to 45cm (12-18in) Position Full Sun Soil Light, rich soil Notes Hardy to minus 12°C (10°F)