Plant Guide > Herbs > Summer Savory herb

Summer Savory herb


Summer Savory (Satureia hortensis, Linn.) is a little annual herb of the natural order Labiatae. It is indigenous to Mediterranean countries and known as an escape from gardens in various parts of the world. In America, it is occasionally found wild on dry, poor soils in Ohio, Illinois, and some of the western states. The generic name is derived from an old Arabic name, Ssattar, by which the whole mint family was known. Among the Romans both summer savory and winter savory were popular 2,000 years ago, not only for flavoring, but as potherbs. During the middle ages and until the 8th century it still maintained this popularity. Up to about 100 years ago it was used in cakes, puddings and confections, but these uses have declined.

Herb Description

The herb, which rarely exceeds 12 inches in height, has erect, branching, herbaceous stems, with oblong-linear leaves, tapering at their bases, and small pink or white flowers clustered in the axils of the upper leaves, forming penciled spikes. The small, brown, ovoid seeds retain their viability about three years. An ounce contains about 42,500 of them, and a quart 18 ounces.

Cultivation

For earliest use the seed may be sown in a spent hotbed or a cold frame in late March, and the plants set in the open during May. Usually, however, it is sown in the garden or the field where the plants are to remain. In the hotbed the rows may be 3 or 4 inches apart; in the field they should be not less than 9 inches, and only this distance when hand wheel-hoes are to be used, and each alternate row is to be removed as soon as the plants begin to touch across the rows. Half a dozen seeds dropped to the inch is fairly thick sowing. As the seed is small, it must not be covered deeply; 1/4 inch is ample. When the rows are 15 inches apart about 4 pounds of seed will be needed to the acre. For horse cultivation the drills should be 20 inches apart. Both summer savory and winter savory do well on rather poor dry soils. If started in hotbeds, the first plants may be gathered during May. Garden-sown seed will produce plants by June. For drying, the nearly mature stems should be cut just as the blossoms begin to appear. No special directions are needed as to drying.

Summer Savory Uses

Both summer savory and winter savory are used as a herb in flavoring salads, dressings, gravies, and sauces used with meats such as veal, pork, duck, and goose and for increasing the palatability of such preparations as croquettes, rissoles and stews. Summer savory is the better herb of the two and should be in every home garden.