Whenever you cook, I’m sure you think about how the final dish will taste. For most of us this means having flavor – real flavor that will make us want to take the next bite. One of the lesser known herbs that can add this flavor is winter savory.
Winter savory (Satureja montana) is a low-growing perennial herb hardy to Zone 6. Its inch long green leaves grow on woody branches that spread about two feet. It grows best with regular watering but can withstand an occasional drought. Plant this herb where it can receive at least half a day of full sun in well-drained or rocky soil. Soil that is too moist can cause root rot.
Winter savory can happily grow with your flowering plants. Winter savory looks attractive 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.
Winter savory is a short-lived perennial lasting about three years. It propagates best by cuttings or layering. In the spring, look for side branches that have touched the ground and rooted during the winter. These can be clipped and removed from the parent plant to grow elsewhere or planted nearby to extend your bed of savory.
Winter savory has a close relative known as – you guessed it – summer savory (Satureja hortensis). This is a tender annual that grows about twice as tall and half as dense as winter savory but with a similar – some chefs say superior – flavor. It grows best in cooler climates and is likely to die out during hot weather in the Southwest. When purchasing, check the botanical name on the pot tag to be sure you get the one you want.
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 the sometimes embarrassing flatulence associated with beans.
Herbs are rising in popularity in the kitchen garden. Fresh herbs such as winter savory will make your home cooked meals healthy and flavorful. Be sure to include it in your garden – even if all you have is a container or two.