Summer savory is the better known of the Savory species. It is an annual, but otherwise is similar in use to the perennial Winter savory. Winter savory has a heavier aroma and a sharper pine type flavour, while that of summer savory is sweeter and more delicate.
Summer savory 'Midget' is a compact variety, this fast-growing annual provides an abundant supply of leaves, growing quickly to a height of about 25cm (10in). With slender bronze green leaves and rose-white tubular flowers which bloom from July to September.
This herb has leaves that are so tender they can be added fresh to salads or used as a garnish. It is used in herb combinations, such as Herbes de Provence and brings out the best in stews and vegetable dishes, and shines as a seasoning for roasting meats, fowl, and fish. Bottled in vinegar it will preserve the fresh, summery flavour.
As a medicinal herb, it has many uses and as an aromatic, it has few peers. It is said that the taste of savory brings all other herbs together in a unique taste.
This ancient herb was an All America Selection winner in 1937
Savory is a durable plant and can be grown in a wide range of climates and conditions. It requires light, rich soil and full sun at least 6 hours per day, conditions that also make it ideal for growing indoors. Plant in an herb garden or in a bed with summer annuals, where it can be replaced in autumn.
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. It can be grown indoors as long as it is placed on a sunny windowsill - it will stand direct sunlight with no problems.
Sow indoors from late winter or outside after all danger of frost
Seeds can be slow to germinate, but usually take 14 to 21 days at 18 to 20°C (65 to 70°F).
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.
Sow outdoors after all danger of frost. The seeds may be sown broadcast or in shallow drills, 22 to 30cm (9 to 12in) apart. Thin out the seedlings, when large enough, to 15cm (6in) apart in the rows.
Keep the bed moist, as summer savory will die back in dry soil.
Summer savory is easy to grow, but the plant tends to have thin, weak stems. Set forked twigs and small branches in the plant so that as the plant grows through the branches, they will provide support. The herbs respond favourably to moderate fertilisation. If you over-fertilise, the plants may produce lots of foliage, but with little flavour.
You can begin harvesting summer savory when the plant is only 15cm (6in) tall. Because summer savory grows so quickly, it responds well to frequent pinching back. This gives you continuous harvests while encouraging the plant to sprout new leaves and remain bushy.
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
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 1 gram Average Seed Count 1,500 Seeds Common Name Summer Savory, Garden Savory Family Lamiaceae Genus Satureja Species hortensis Synonym Satureia hortensis Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers Rose-white in July to September Height 30-45cm (12-18in) Position Full Sun Soil Light, rich soil Notes Culinary Herb