This herb has a reputation as an aphrodisiac. In the first century AD, Pliny the Elder gave the herb its name "satureja," the Latin word for "satyr" (the half-man, half-goat with the insatiable sexual appetite). According to mythology, 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 last 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."


We can count on its bold, peppery flavor to season a variety of dishes. Native to the Mediterranean, the Romans used this herb for cooking and introduced it to England during Caesar's reign. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it blended with thyme for flavoring game and stuffing. Savory, with its peppery flavor, was known to the Romans before the first lots of true pepper were imported from India. In the first century B.C., Virgil grew savory for his bees, believing that it made their honey taste better. In the Middle Ages, savory was used as a flavoring for cakes, pies, and puddings. The colonists brought it to America, and it is a favorite seasoning in the United States.


Related to mint, there are some 32 members of the savory genus, although only two are in common cultivation. Summer savory is a tender annual that grows up to 18 inches tall. It has small bronze-green leaves and very small white or lavender flowers. The leaves are pungent and spicy. Summer savory grows best in a well-worked loamy soil. Seed can be planted in the garden in spring. Winter savory (Satureja montana) is a coarser variety. Often used as a hedging plant in knot gardens of the Tudor era, it is a dense perennial shrub that grows to a height of 15 inches in well-drained soil and full sun. They are best used for dishes that require long cooking, such as stews, or added to the water when cooking dried beans so that there is enough heat and moisture to break them down. This not only releases the flavorful oils, but also softens the leaves so that they are palatable. Winter savory is often used in stuffing, with vegetables, as a seasoning for fowl, and in making sausages. In fact, it is used today in the commercial preparation of salami.


In addition to its culinary uses, savory was used to cure a variety of ills, included are those of the stomach, bowels, ear and female reproductive system. Savory leaves also were crushed and applied to insect bites for relief of pain and swelling. It has been named a remedy for the colic and a cure for flatulence, used to enhance dishes containing dried beans and lentils. It is no coincidence that the German word for the herb is Bohenkraut, meaning bean herb,as one of the components of the herb naturally aids the digestion of these sometimes problematic legumes.


Winter savory, is a perennial hardy to zone 6,although I have grown it successfully in my zone 5 garden. Winter savory does best in a light, sandy soil. Keep the dead wood trimmed out. It does well in rock gardens, I have it tucked in the concrete blocks around my horseradish bed. Winter savory dislikes having its feet wet for extended periods of time, so provide a well-drained spot and don't over water. 

Summer savory is an annual. It germinates readily from seed in 7 to 10 days and may be transplanted directly into the garden when the plant has several sets of true leaves, into a pot. I love to plug transplants all over the garden. Summer savory also flowers in midsummer; its white blooms have a blush of pink. The entire plant is fragrant. The grayish-green leafed stems may have a tendency to flop over as they mature. One good tip is to mound the soil around the base of the plant to provide support, something most plants resent but which doesn't seem to bother summer savory. Because it requires more water than winter savory, water and fertilize your summer savory well. Summer savory is used as a companion plant for beans because it helps deter bean beetles.

Pick young shoots and leaves of either variety at any time, although it is best just before the plant flowers. The leaves of winter savory are almost evergreen but not as pungent in winter. Both are best dried for winter use. One efficient way to preserve that fresh, summery flavor is to bottle the herb in vinegar at the height of the season. The top growth as cut from the plants may be tied in small bunches or spread on screens or paper to dry. When thoroughly dry, the leaves should be stripped from the stems and stored in closed containers. Care should be taken to remove all small pieces of woody stems, as they interfere with the use of the leaves in flavoring foods.


Most catalogs and seed packets indicate the "days to maturity". To be able to use this essential number , you need to determine whether the number of days indicated refers to seed that you will sow directly in the garden like lettuce, spinach, corn, etc.. Rather than the number of days it will take a six week old transplant to mature. Crops like peppers, and tomatoes are generally started inside and then transplanted out to the garden. These vegetables will take a week or so to sprout, and then another six weeks to grow and then you start counting that magical "days to maturity". But whether you start your seeds indoors or out, the "days to maturity" thing is generally a loose guideline.Your mileage may vary depending on many factors unique to your region.


Tomatoes picked fully ripe have about 25% more vitamin C than tomatoes picked green and allowed to ripen off the plant. Broccoli has more than twice the vitamin C, ounce for ounce, than oranges. 



"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow."




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