Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Savory - Herb of the Week

It is Wednesday again and time to give you some rejuvenation for hump day.  So here is the herb-of-the-week a post where you will find details and recipes on herbs we hope will  get you thinking creatively about growing and using them at home.  Now as you coast down into the weekend you have either a new herb on your list or something new to do with an herb you already know.

Herb of the week is Savory (both winter and summer)

Savory is actually two different available plants.  Satureia Hortensis  - Summer Savory, which grows well from seed is a native of southern Europe.  It grows to a height and spread of about 12 inches. It is an aromatic annual that will flower in pale lilac during the late season and after the frost will turn reddish.
Satureia MontanaWinter Savory, grows from cuttings rooted in sand or root division and is a North Africa native.  It grows into a dark green woody shrub with needle-like leaves and will get slightly larger than the summer variety getting 12 to 18 inches.  It is also bushier and denser and will live several years.

Summer Savory

Winter Savory
You can use the fresh or dried leaves from both for flavoring string beans, fish, cheese, and egg dishes, as well as stuffing and soups.

Whether used for its medicinal properties or to flavor food, Savory has been around since the days of the Romans, and before. The English word Savory means “Pleasing in taste or smell” and was derived from the Old French word savoure meaning to taste, which came from the Latin word satureia.

Historically, savory has a reputation for regulating sex drive.  Winter Savory is said to decrease sex drive, while Summer Savory is said to enhance it.  Romans used Savory as an herb and seasoning even before they used pepper. They used it as a medicine, a bee sting treatment, and an aphrodisiac. When the Romans brought it to England, it was used as an ingredient in stuffing rather than as an herbal remedy.

To Grow
Easy to grow, Savory, a close relative of Thyme, and a distant relative to Mint, makes an attractive border plant for any culinary herb garden. According to plant experts, it requires around six hours of sun a day in soil that drains well. Savory does not grow in full shade.
Winter savory (S. montana) is grown as a perennial in zones 5 to 9. It has foliage similar to summer savory but is spicier and evergreen in mild climates. The plant forms a mat 12 inches high. White flowers appear in late summer. You can propagate winter savory by layering or cuttings. A low-growing form, creeping winter savory (S. montana 'Procumbens'), is also available. Winter savory should be replaced with new plants every 2-3 years. You can propagate replacements from the original stock.  It can be pruned to form a loose, low aromatic hedge. Cut as needed prior to or immediately after flowering for culinary or medicinal use.

Plant summer savory in well-drained, moderately fertile soil and full sun. Space plants 12 inches apart. To ensure fresh summer savory all season, start a second crop in early summer for late harvests.  You can start summer savory from seed, sowing it outdoors in spring. Or start seeds 4 to 6 weeks early indoors.

To Use
Although Savory is largely a culinary herb, it contains oils and tannins that have mild astringent and antiseptic properties that can be useful in medicines.  Summer Savory is the type most often used for medicinal purposes.  Teas can be made for occasional colic, diarrhea, indigestion, flatulence, stomach upsets, mild sore throats, and as an expectorant.  It is also sometimes used in a tea by diabetics to alleviate excessive thirst. 
Externally, rubbing a sprig of Savory on wasp or bee stings provides instant relief.  Try using an ointment made of Savory for minor rashes and skin irritations.  The essential oil forms an ingredient in lotions for the scalp in cases of incipient baldness. An ointment made from the plant is used externally to relieve arthritic joints.
For cooking, try savory as a substitute for black pepper. Harvest summer savory as you need it. The rich aroma will be most intense just before the plant flowers. Use it fresh or dried for a pleasant sweet, spicy flavor to vegetables, meats, pastas, and rice. It is my favorite for tossing with beans and adding to soups. Add a bite of summer savory in salads, lettuce salads, potato salads, and serve chopped as a topping to hot dishes. You can also use the leaves in tea. In cooking, winter savory goes very well with both beans and meats, very often lighter meats such as poultry or fish.  Winter Savory is also a great mixing herb. It blends well with different culinary oreganos, thymes and basils and can be added to meat, poultry or fish. Its small leaves are the perfect compliment to herb cheeses or as last-minute additions to sautés. Even though it has a strong flavor when fresh, it does not hold up well to prolonged stewing. Famous for making its mark on beans, dried Savory also perks up stuffing and can be mixed with Sage, Thyme, and Bay. Add to ground Turkey or Pork with Fennel Seed, Cayenne Pepper, and Thyme. Or, add a pinch to Chicken, Seafood, or Tuna salad or to a hearty soup. There are very few dishes that a little Winter Savory won't make better.


Herb Dressing

1 cup dried parsley  
½ cup each dried basil, thyme, savory, and marjoram
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup vinegar      

Mix together dry ingredients and store in an air-tight container. Each time you need a dressing, shake together 1 tbsp. of the herbs mixed with ¾ cup olive oil and ¼ cup vinegar. 

Hearty Herb Blend

2 parts dried rosemary
2 parts dried savory
1 part dried thyme
1 part dried marjoram

Grind fine to use in a shaker or leave coarse.  Great salt substitute.  Good rubbed on roasts or added to stews.

Savory Herbal Marinade

For use on Red Meat:
2 1/2 Cups Red Wine
3/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Small Onion or Several Shallots, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, sliced
2 Fresh Greek Bay Leaves, broken into pieces
2 teaspoons each Fresh Thyme, Oregano and Winter Savory, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons Salt

Allow meat to marinate overnight or for at least 12 hours.

To use on Chicken, exchange the red wine for white wine and the red wine vinegar for white wine vinegar. The herbs may also include French Tarragon, Lemon Thyme or Rosemary or any combination of those listed.

For Pork, add fresh mint to the White Wine Marinade.
For Fish, use lemon juice in the place of the vinegar and the Winter Savory chopped fine and be conservative with any other herbs.

If you prefer to cook without alcohol, you may substitute as follows:
For 2 ½ C red wine, Use 2 C apple juice 1/3 c cranberry juice and 1T Lemon Juice
For 2 ½ C white wine, Use 2 C white grape juice & juice from 1 can of mushrooms
Pickled Green Beans with Savory
Makes 6 pints

3 pounds of green beans
12 three-inch sprigs of fresh summer savory
1 quart of white wine vinegar
1 quart water
¼ cup pickling salt (do not substitute table salt)
1 Tbls. Sugar

Wash and dry beans.  Remove the stem ends and trim the beans to fit the jars chosen, leaving ½ inch headspace.

Prepare the jars, lids and boiling water bath.  Fill each clean dry jar with beans and two sprigs of savory in a non-reactive pan.  Combine the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Pour the hot liquid into the jars, just covering the beans.  Wipe the rims and attach the lids securely.

Place in a boiling water bath and when the water returns to a boil process for 15 minutes.  Remove the jars, cool, labels and store.

These recipes are just one aspect of the Backyard Patch. To read our herb research, or see a listing of our 200 +  herbal blends for cooking, tea and bath, including many that contain savory visit the Backyard Patch on-line at

All recipes copyright 2010 Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh and should not be copied without permission of the blog owner.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. do you have a recipe for iced savory tea?


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