There are a number of species of savory, almost all coming from the Mediterranean area. The two listed here are the chief ones used in cooking, although in Spain another species, Satureja thymbra, more nearly akin to thyme in flavour, is used as a kitchen herb, and no doubt other wild savories are also used locally.
GER: Bohnenkraut Kolle.
SP: Ajedrea de Jardin.
BOT: Satureja hortensis
ILL: Plate 14, No. 7 summer savory was used in cooking by the Romans, and they probably introduced it into Britain. It seems to be of earlier usage than sage.
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From Britain it went to America with the first settlers. The plant is a hardy annual, and once established will usually selfsow. Only a small clump is necessary, so broadcast and thin later to about six inches. The plant grows to roughly a foot high and straggles untidily. The flowers are pinkish mauve, small, and uninteresting; the leaves, narrow and elongated. The plant likes sun and light soil.
The flavour of savory is very biting, vaguely like thyme but more bitter and quite distinct. Its flavour is better before it flowers than afterwards. It dries well and keeps its flavour. It is used in sausages, stuffings and herb mixtures (sometimes in a bouquet garni), but its only traditional use is as a flavouring for beans and peas particularly in France, Switzerland and Germany. Some regard this as a mistake. When overdone it is certainly quite as barbarous as mint which the French consider an English mistake.
FR: Sarriette des montagnes GER: Winter-Bergminze IT: Santoreggia selvatica SP: Sabroso BOT: Satureja montana ILL: Plate 14, No. 6 winter savory is a shrubby perennial with purplish flowers, growing to about a foot high.
Propagation is by rooted cuttings in spring. It likes poor soil and sun. The flavour is very like summer savory though, in most people’s opinion, inferior. The essential oils are almost the same. In the past, it was used with trout.