Perhaps one of the lesser known cooking herbs that is easy to grow is winter savory (Satureja montana), a low-growing perennial herb hardy to zones 6 to 11. Its inch long green leaves grow on woody branches that spread about two feet.
Growing Winter Savory
The herb grows best with regular watering but can withstand an occasional drought. Small white to pink flowers appear in June and are much enjoyed by passing bees. Plant this herb where it can receive at least one-half day of full sun in well-drained or rocky soil. Soil that is too moist can cause root rot, especially during the winter. In my garden I have winter savory at the front edge of a bed with shrub roses growing behind it. Because of its dense growth, winter savory can be trimmed and used as a low hedge between sections of your garden, as one would when creating a formal knot garden.
Winter savory is a short-lived perennial lasting about two to three years. It propagates best by cuttings or layering. In the spring, look for side branches that have rested on the ground and rooted during the winter. These can be clipped and removed from the parent plant to grow elsewhere or extend your bed of savory.
Cooking with Winter Savory
In the kitchen, winter savory has a somewhat peppery flavor, so go easy when you first use it. Try adding finely chopped savory leaves to bread crumbs when coating meats. Add a sprig or two to the body cavity of trout before cooking. Use it as an alternative to oregano or thyme when these herbs are called for in a recipe. Savory is also excellent when added to bean dishes. In fact, some people call savory “the bean herb,” not only for its pungent flavor but its reputed ability to curb flatulence associated with beans.
With the emphasis on homegrown and healthy foods, herbs are rising in popularity in the kitchen garden. The fresh herbs grown there make home-cooked meals even better. Be sure to include winter savory in your garden.
Winter savory has a close relative known as summer savory (Satureja hortensis). This is a tender annual that grows about twice as tall and half as dense as winter savory but is likely to die out during hot summers in the Southwest. The savories have a somewhat racy reputation. Their botanic name “satureja” is a reference to the half-man, half-goat satyrs of ancient myth. Summer savory, which grows when the satyrs were out cavorting, was believed to enhance carnal desires. Winter savory was associated with diminishing them, making it no doubt a popular herb in monasteries.
If you enjoy herbs and organic gardening, you’ll want to meet Ann McCormick, the Herb ‘n Cowgirl. A life-long gardener, she has devoted her time for the last 20 years to writing and speaking about her favorite subject. Ann is a feature writer for The Dallas Morning News and a columnist for Herb Quarterly where she pens the “Herbalist Notebook.” The Herb ‘n Cowgirl also shares her love of herbs and her gardening techniques as a speaker and media guest. She lives in Fort Worth, TX with her husband of 35 years and an assortment of dogs. To find out more about the Herb ‘n Cowgirl visit her at www.herbncowgirl.com.