Friday, June 12, 2009

Herb Of The Week -- Savory

The herb of the week is Savory. There are two main varieties of Savory.

Summer Savory (satureja hortensis), is an annual, that must be replanted every year.

Winter Savory (satureja montana) is a perennial, that creates a ground cover and will return year after year.

We have been trying to build a solid base of perennials, so that we could just tuck a few annuals in around them, so we have Winter Savory in our garden. In this picture, Winter had just ended, and the spring growth was just starting.

For the rest of this article, I will just use the term Savory, when referring to the Winter Savory that we grow.

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.
There is an argument made that this meant “herb of the satyrs“, as it was known to be an aphrodisiac, but I have been unable to positively confirm either this history of the word, or this particular property of the plant. Nevertheless, I like the story.

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.

Having said that, let me just say that ours has been growing in full shade for several years now, and is a thriving healthy happy and flavorful plant.

In spring, sow seeds 1/8" deep in dry, well-drained soil. Winter savory is slower to sprout than summer savory and requires less water. Too much moisture in the soil can cause winterkill. This savory should be replaced with new plants every 2-3 years. 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. Hang in bundles upside down in an airy place. Savory does not lend itself well to freezing in a paste form, as the leaves are very small, and dry, but they can be frozen individually on a cookie sheet and then transferred into ziplock bags, or other airtight containers, once they are frozen.

Medicinally, it is reported to be a stimulant, and an aphrodisiac. It is said to have many health benefits, particularly upon the whole digestive system. the whole herb, (and more specifically the flowering shoots), is mildly antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, digestive and mildly expectorant
It is said to be a remedy for colic and a cure for flatulence, it is also used to treat gastro-enteritis, cystitis, nausea, diarrhea, bronchial congestion, sore throat and menstrual disorders. It should, therefore not be prescribed for pregnant women. 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.

A sprig of the plant, rubbed onto bee or wasp stings, brings instant relief. Being especially sensitive to mosquito bites, I tried this myself this week on a particularly irritating bite and was mildly surprised to find the swelling and itching disappear within minutes.

In cooking, winter savory goes very well with both beans and meats, very often lighter meats such as poultry or fish

Winter Savory is 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 saut├ęs. 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 stuffings 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.

Here is a "can't fail" recipe for a universal marinade, using fresh herbs from your garden.

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

Or you can try this one, simple, but healthy.

Herbed Rice:

1 cup white rice
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoons each, Finely Chopped Savory, Thyme and Rosemary
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch pepper

Stir all ingredients together well, in a medium saucepan. Set over high heat, and bring to a simmer; cover, and cook 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and serve.

There's not much in mythology or modern magic about this herb that I can find, other than you can carry it, eat it, burn it, or wear it for intellect, creativity, and to maintain the good life.

Is it any wonder, then, that Savory has always been one of my favorite herbs in our garden? Subconsciously, I must have known that I was seriously in need of all of those things.

Let me know your favorite recipe using savory.

The following sources were very helpful in my research this week and may provide additional useful information:

Herbal Beauty
Mountain Valley Growers

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy growing both kinds of savory. My summer savory usually seeds itself, so we still have some each year. I have a good crop this year, and had to thin the plants.

    I use summer savory on green beans and sometimes other veggies. Winter savory, I forget to use a lot. I've used it on veggies, too. I have to be careful with it, because it's stronger flavored.