Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Winter Savory - Herb of the Week

I did a post on Savory back in 2010 but since it is the International Herb Association Herb of the Year for 2015 I thought I would revisit it.  There are actually 30 types of savory, Summer Savory and Winter Savory, are two of the most common; one is an annual, the latter a perennial.  This week (because all I can think of is winter while it is -20 wind chill here) I will focus on the perennial, Winter Savory (Satureja montana) and next time (in two weeks) I will focus on Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis).  Later this year I will do some follow up on a few of the other species.

Winter Savory (Satureja Montana) Herb of the Week

According to some books summer and winter savory are identical in all applications except gardening. They have a long history of being used in cooking that stretches back in Europe at least 2000 years. Shakespeare mentions Savory in The Winter’s Tale together with lavender and marjoram.  Winter savory is recommended by several old writers in combination with other herbs.  17th century herbalist, John Parkinson, described how it was dried and powdered and mixed with bread crumbs, “to breade their meate.”  To this day Savory is still a popular ingredient in stuffing.

To Grow

Known as Mountain Savory, Winter Savory is a semi-evergreen hardy perennial that grows to 12 inches with an 8 inch spread.  It flowers with small white / pink flowers in the summer.  The leaves are dark green, linear and very aromatic. 

Both types of savory grow from seed or cuttings.  Always use fresh seed as the viability is reduced after a year.  Winter Savory is somewhat slower to sprout; start it in a flat so you can keep track of the tiny seeds.  It does not need bottom heat and takes about 10 to 15 days to germinate.  Set plants in the garden 10 to 12 inches apart after the soil has warmed up and threat of frost has passed.  You can grow it in a container, bringing it inside for the winter if you live in a cold climate.  As it is only perfectly hardy to zone 6, however, I was able to mulch it and keep it sheltered outdoors and it overwintered in my Zone 5 garden just fine.

You can also grow Winter Savory from softwood cuttings in spring, using a bark, peat, grit potting soil.  When these have rooted they should be planted out about 6 inches apart.

It grows in any well-drained soil of average to poor fertility and requires less water than its annual counterpart.  In fact, too much moisture in the soil can cause winter kill.  It prefers full sun. Winter savory is hardy as far north as New York City and can be harvest fresh all winter.  You will need to replace the plants every two or three years as it is a short-lived perennial and will begin to die from the inside out.  You can however take cuttings from you existing plant to make replacements.

It makes a good edging plant and can look very pretty in summer, because it can withstand occasional clipping this also makes a nice herb to use in a hedge or maze.

To Use

Snip off the tips of branches in small amounts.  Harvest larger quantities for drying, about 6 inches above the soil surface.  Cut again near the end of summer.  Hang the stems upside down to try.  Winter savory can be harvested before or after it flowers.


Savory is used in cooking and is its most popular way to be used.  Under grown by home gardeners it is a common ingredient in meat and vegetable dishes, and especially popular in high end restaurants.  Winter savory can also be used medicinally but it is inferior to summer savory, so instead focus on it culinary uses. Savory can stimulate appetite and aid digestion. I shared a number of stuffing recipes some with savory recently.

Winter savory combines well with vegetables and rich meats.  The flavor of Winter Savory is both coarser and stronger than Summer Savory it has a strong sharp peppery flavor with a piny undertone. The advantage of Winter Savory is it provides fresh leaves into early winter. It is good used with strong meats and pates.  The flavor being strong means one should use it sparingly to start until you get used to the flavor. Cook with fresh or dried beans and lentils or in a white sauce for bean dishes.  Mix with parsley and chives for roasting duck. 

Apply fresh sprigs to bee or wasp stings. Both Summer and Winter Savory are considered to have a reputation as aphrodisiacs.  The flowering tops can be used to make a cleansing facial steam. You can make a vinegar with Winter savory also which has an interesting flavor and makes a great marinade.


Barbecues angler fish with Winter savory

1 ½ lb. angler fish
1 lemon both juice and grated rind.
1 cup olive oil
salt & pepper
good handful of winter savory

Remove any bones from the angler fish and cut the flesh into ½ inch cubes.  Lay the cubes in a deep dish.  Mix the lemon rind and juice, olive oil and salt & pepper together in a bowl.  Break the winter savory into small sprigs and add to the mixture.  Pour this marinade over the fish and leave for 6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  Thread the angler fish onto 4 skewers.  Cook over barbecue or under the broiler) for 5 10 minutes, turning often and using the marinade for basting.  Serve on a bed of boiled rice and accompany with green salad.

Soup Seasoning Blend

1 tsp. peppercorns
2 tsp. dried basil
3 tsp. dried thyme
6 tsp. marjoram
6 tsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp. dried winter savory
4 Tbsp. dried celery leaves
6 bay leaves

Mix together and divide among 6 cheesecloth bags, with one bay leaf per bag. Add a bag to a pot of homemade vegetable or bean-based soup.

Poultry Sage Rub  

This rub is of course for poultry, but it is also good on fish, beef, pork, and  turkey.

1 teaspoon granulated lemon peel
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon granulated onion
1 Tablespoon rosemary finely chopped
1 Tablespoon rubbed sage
1/3 cup sage leaf
1/3 cup winter savory

Combine the above ingredients and stir until well blended. Place in a glass jar and seal. Makes one cup of mix.

Directions for use:

Sprinkle and rub the mix according to taste preferences on both sides of fish, beef, pork, chicken or turkey before grilling, broiling, baking or frying. A general guide for use is 1/2 to one teaspoon per serving.

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