Savory (Satureia species; Labiatae)


Satureja hortensis, summer savory; an annual plant to 8 in. (20 cm) with narrow leaves ½ in. (1 cm) long, and pale lilac flowers in spikes from July-September. S. mon-tana, winter savory; a hardy perennial, semi-evergreen, subshrub to 15 in. (35 cm), otherwise similar to summer savory. Origin, southern Europe, introduced around 1562, or earlier.


Leaves are strongly aromatic, nearer to a spice than a herb, used in cooking, mainly to flavour beans, but also in salads, soups and with fish; gather the leaves before the flowers appear. The savories are good bee plants. The leaves are sometimes used to help in digestion.


Vinegar flavoured with savory was as much used by the Romans as mint sauce is used by us. The word satureja is thought to come from satyr, the plant being once considered as an aphrodisiac. The leaves were said to alleviate the pain of bee and wasp stings.


Summer savory is grown from seed sown in April in rows 1 ft (30 cm) apart, thinned to 6 in. (15 cm). The leaves can be gathered twice, in August and in October, for drying. Cover the seed lightly, otherwise germination is poor. Winter savory can also be grown from seed, by division in spring, or from 2-in. (5-cm) cuttings taken in May, put in a frame, and then potted on and planted out the following spring.