Satureia hortensis (summer savory)
Satureia montana (winter savory)
Summer savory: Annual
Winter savory: Hardy evergreen perennial
Summer savory: Height 30 to 45 cm; spread 30 to 60 cm. Large, widely branched bush with long, lance-shaped leaves and pink or white flowers.
Winter savory: Height 15 to 40 cm; spread 15 to 30 cm. Compact, low-growing bush with lance-shaped leaves and white or pink flowers.
Satureia hortensis (summer savory): Easiest to grow; delicate flavour
Satureia montana (winter savory): Strong, pungent flavour
Satureia biflora (lemon savory): Tender perennial with an intense lemon scent and flavour; rare, often difficult to locate
Savory can be started indoors from seed, grown from young plants purchased from a garden centre, or split from a established plant early in the spring.
How much: At least two plants.
When: Two weeks after the date of average last spring frost.
Where: Full sun to light shade. Prefers light, well-drained soil. Space plants 30 cm apart.
Care and Nurture
Savory is easy to grow! Let the soil surface dry before you water, then soak thoroughly. Feed lightly. Winter savory should be divided and replanted every 2 or 3 years. Do this in the early spring by digging up the clump and removing any of the old, tough growth in the centre. Then split the balance of the plant into smaller clumps and replant.
Summer savory tends to get leggy, so don’t hesitate to cut it back hard (by up to a third) to keep it producing. Harvest winter savory regularly to keep it looking bushy and full.
For best flavour: Harvest Summer savory in late spring or early summer, before the plants flower—later than that, the taste gets a bit bitter. Winter savory can be harvested all season, but young leaves taste best.
Leaves: Harvest individual leaves by clipping the leaf stalk where it attaches to the plant stem. Cut sprigs and use whole, or strip the leaves. Discard tough stalks.
Flowers: Edible, but not normally eaten; collect in late summer.
Preserving the Harvest
Summer savory is best preserved by drying. Winter savory can be dried or frozen.
- The leaves should be gathered before the plant flowers. I like to cut my plants back by about two-thirds after flowering and use the new, fresh, sweet shoots.
- I like to trim my winter savory back in the spring to encourage new growth.
- I also like to prune my summer savory in the spring, about a month after I set the young plants into the garden. Summer savory grows vigorously and can get quite lanky. Pruning soon after the plants are established encourages, bushy, more compact plants.
- In ancient times, savories were thought to belong to the Satyrs, hence the genus name Satureia.
- The Romans introduced savory when they invaded England some 2000 years ago. The Romans used savory and other aromatic herbs in vinegar in much the same way we use mint sauce.
- In Shakespeare's time, savory was a common herb. It is mentioned, along with mint, marjoram, and lavender, in The Winter’s Tale.
- Summer savory was one of the herbs brought to the New World by the pilgrims. John Josselyn, one of the early American settlers, compiled a list of plants introduced by the English colonists to remind them of their gardens in England. He mentioned both winter and summer savory.