Everything You Need to Know about the Savory Herb

When people read the word “savory”, most will think about flavorful food. Here’s an interesting fact: savory is the name of an herb that has that flavorful taste. Want to know more about the savory herb? Read on. Here we tell you everything to know about the herb.

Getting to Know More about the Savory Herb

Satureja hortensis

Let’s start with getting to know the plant first.

  • The botanical name for the savory herb is Satureja hortensis (summer savory) and Satureja montana (winter savory). Both of these herbs are members of the Lamiaceae or mint family.
  • The savory herb is native to Mediterranean and Southern Europe. While the plant is native to these areas, it has been naturalized in many other places in the world. This is why there are plenty of cuisines that incorporate savory in them.
  • Summer savory is an annual plant, while winter savory is a perennial one. Summer savory can be grown in Zones 1 to 11, while winter savory can be grown in Zones 5 to 11.
  • In terms of hardiness, winter savory is hardier than its summer counterpart. The former can withstand both heat and cold while the latter can only withstand heat but not cold.
  • In terms of size, summer savory tends to be larger and more upright than winter savory.
  • Summer savory can grow to 18 inches tall. It produces narrow, aromatic leaves that are 1.5 inches long.
  • Winter savory can grow between 6 and 15 inches tall. It produces narrow to roundish leaves that are 1 inch long.
  • Summer and winter savory produce the same flowers. They produce loose spikes of pink, white, or pale lavender flowers. Their flowers bloom in summer.

1. Summer Savory

Satureja hortensis as summer savory

Satureja hortensis, more popularly known as the summer savory, is one of the two most popular savory herb types. Unlike the winter savory, summer savory is an annual plant, which means all of the plant’s parts die every year after it completes its entire life cycle.

The summer savory has bronze- and green-colored leaves. It produces lilac, tubular flowers that bloom anywhere between July and September.

What about the summer savory flavor? This savory herb flavor is sweet, lighter, and spicy. Not surprisingly, it is used for various kinds of dishes as well as being used as a part of a mixture with other dried herbs.

2. Winter Savory

Satureja Montana as winter savory

The other popular type of savory herb is Satureja Montana, more popularly known as the winter or mountain savory. Unlike the summer savory, the winter savory is a perennial plant, which means the plant can grow and live for many growing seasons.

The leaves of winter savory have a darker shade compared to the summer savory’s. The flowers of winter savory also bloom in summer. Its flowers have a color range from pink to light lavender with some produces white flowers.

While the summer variety has a sweeter, lighter, and spicy flavor, the winter savory herb has a somber, earthy flavor. This herb is also known for its smell, which reminds you of the winter season. Hence, the “winter” in its name.

Savory Herb Uses in Cooking

The savory herb can be used in cooking in various ways. Here are 4 examples:

1. Savory seasoning

Savory can be used as a substitute for other seasonings like salt or pepper.

Savory can be used as a substitute for other seasonings like salt or pepper. Back then, pepper is not as widespread as today, which leads Germans to use savory herb as a substitute for pepper.

Savory can also be used to substitute salt as well. Yes, do as the Romans did. Romans use savory as a substitute for salt. That’s why if you are on a low-sodium diet, using savory as seasoning is a good idea.

2. Dried savory

Herbes de Provence

Yes, that’s right, just like in Herbes de Provence. Herbes de Provence is a famous French mixture of dried herbs. This dried herbs mixture is usually sprinkled on meat before the meat is grilled or roasted. You can do the same using the dried savory herb.

2. Meat rubs

steak with savory

If you rub savory on chicken or pork meat before cooking them, the meat will get a unique, flavorful taste.

3. Table condiment

sharena sol

In Bulgaria, the savory herb is mixed with a bowl of ground paprika and salt. This mixture is a table condiment known as sharena sol, which means colorful salt.

This table condiment is used to add flavor to various Bulgarian dishes. It is also often used to season potatoes, bread, cheese, as well as vegetables.

Savory Herb Benefits

pork with savory seasoning

The savory herb is good not only for cooking, however. It brings many health benefits too. Here are some examples of health benefits that the herb brings.

1. It is good for the digestive system

Yes. Eating savory can help promote a healthy digestive system. It prevents gas from forming in the stomach, prevents indigestion, and makes it easier for the stomach to expel gas.

2. It can relieve symptoms of various digestive problems

The savory herb can relieve symptoms of various digestive problems, including gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and colic.

3. It can relieve symptoms of colds and coughs

The plant has antibacterial properties, which is why it can help to treat symptoms of colds and coughs.

4. It promotes overall health and prevents diseases

The plant contains antioxidants, which not only promotes overall health but also prevents diseases from occurring in the first place.

5. It is a natural antiseptic

Savory herb has thymol, an essential oil that contains antifungal and antiseptic properties.

Savory Herb: Where to Buy

planting savory herb in your kitchen garden

So you are interested in planting savory herb in your kitchen garden. Where can you buy it? Interestingly enough, this flavorful herb can be difficult to find in garden centers and grocery stores.

That said, you are likely able to find them in nurseries that have a good selection of herbs. From these nurseries, you can buy some savory seeds and grow them in your kitchen garden. In case you can’t find any in your local garden centers or nurseries, you can always buy them online.

Substitute for Savory Herb

Is there any substitute for savory herb? Yes, there are many popular herbs that you can use as a substitute for this herb. For example, thyme, marjoram, sage, and herb mixtures.

1. Thyme

Compared to other substitutes for savory herb, thyme is the closest one in terms of taste.

Compared to other substitutes for savory herb, thyme is the closest one in terms of taste. What makes thyme different is it has a bit minty and pungent flavor. Because of how close thyme and savory in terms of taste, the two can be used interchangeably.

2. Marjoram

marjoram is a fragile herb.

The next substitute for savory herb is marjoram. Keep in mind that marjoram is a fragile herb. Prolonged exposure to heat will make it loses its taste. If you are going to use marjoram, add it midway through cooking.

3. Sage

Sage leaves

This herb has a winter scent. If you want a savory flavor without using savory, use fresh sage leaves.

4. Herb mixtures

you can mix 1 part sage, 2 parts thyme, and a bit of mint.

The last substitute is an herb mixture. To get a flavor that is similar to the flavor of savory, you can mix 1 part sage, 2 parts thyme, and a bit of mint.

Growing Savory Herb in the Kitchen Garden

Interested in growing savory in your kitchen garden but don’t know how to do it? We got you covered. Follow our brief guide below and you will get your supply of homegrown savory in no time.

1. How to Plant Savory Herb

growing savory herb

Best location to plant

Both summer and winter savory thrive in full sun, so place them in a spot where they can get plenty of sunlight.

Soil preparation

The soil preparation is different between summer and winter varieties. Summer savory grows best in a rich, well-drained organic soil while winter savory grows best in well-drained, sandy soil. As for the pH, the two types prefer pH between 6.7 and 7.3.

Seed starting indoors

If you are starting seed indoors, sow savory seeds 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost. Savory seed germination can take 14 days or longer.

If you are sowing winter savory seeds, don’t worry if they don’t germinate as soon as you’d expect as winter savory germination can be erratic.

Transplanting to the garden

Once the last frost in spring has passed, you can transplant the seedlings in your kitchen garden.

Outdoor planting

If you are starting seed outdoors, sow savory seeds in the garden in spring at the expected last frost date. Growing from seeds is not the only way to get your own savory herb. You can also start planting from divisions and cuttings.

Planting depth

Sow savory seeds about 1/4 inch deep. The seeds will germinate without soil cover.

Spacing

Savory plants need room to grow, especially so for the winter savory variant. To provide enough room to grow, space each plant 12 to 18 inches apart from each other. Do the same with the rows. Space the rows 12 to 18 inches apart from each other.

How much to plant

For cooking, grow 2 to 4 savory plants. For preservation, grow 6 to 8 savory plants.

Companion planting

You can plant savory plants along with onions, tomatoes, sage, thyme, lavender, and beans.

2. How to Grow Savory Herb

treatment for growing savory herb

Watering

Until the plant is established, regular watering is a must. Once it is established, the plant can be kept on the dry side.

Mulching

Although winter savory can withstand cold, you still need to protect it from freezing temperatures. You can do this by adding a thick mulch of dried straw or leaves around the plant. When spring comes, remove the mulch.

Feeding

Extra feeding is usually not necessary. This is especially true if you are planting savory in rich soil. That said, you can side dress savory plants with aged compost at midseason.

Care

Summer savory grows very quickly. Due to its fast growth rate, the plant can become top-heavy and may need staking. As for winter savory, you should cut the plant back to several inches tall each spring. Replant winter savory every 4 or 5 years. To encourage new growth, trim regularly.

Container growing

You can grow both summer and winter savory in containers. For best growth, plant savory in a container that is at least 6 inches wide and deep.

Winter growing

For winter growing winter savory, add a thick mulch of dried straw or leaves. For summer savory, grow it indoors during winter.

Speaking of growing plants, are you interested in growing bee balm plants in your garden? If you are, our guide here can help you grow your own bee balm in your garden.

How to Harvest Savory Herb

harvesting savory herb

When to harvest

You can harvest savory fresh as you need. Yes, both leaves and stems. Harvest leaves for drying just before the flower buds open. For winter savory, you can harvest it year-round. If you want to extend the harvest, snip the tops of the branches.

How to harvest

To harvest savory, use a garden scissor or pruner to snip leaves and stems. If you are harvesting dried leaves, cut 6- to 8-inch stems before flowering.

Preserving and Storing

storing savory herb

Drying

Remove leaves from stems then dry them on a screen in a cool, shady spot. You can dry leaves in the refrigerator by placing them on a tray lined with a paper towel or in a hanging mesh bag.

Storing

To store dried savory leaves, place them inside an airtight container.

Propagating Savory

You can propagate savory in 4 ways: from seed, cuttings, division, and layering.

Seed

Savory seeds germinate in light. That is why you don’t need to cover them. Although propagating savory from seed is a viable option, the seeds take time to germinate. If you want a quicker way to propagate savory, cuttings and divisions are the better alternatives.

Cuttings

To propagate from cuttings, you can start winter savory in summer by cutting 4 to 6 inches long root and place the cutting in moist sand or potting mix.

Division

To propagate savory from division, divide winter savory plants (preferably older ones) in spring or fall.

Layering

You can propagate savory by weighing long winter savory stems to the ground. Then, cover the stems with soil to encourage root growth.

What do you think about savory herb? Quite an interesting plant, isn’t it? If you want to make your cooking spicier, planting this herb is a good idea. The plant is easy to plant and doesn’t demand much. It is definitely a welcome addition to your kitchen garden.

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