Winter savory, a perennial, and its annual cousin summer savory are known mainly as culinary herbs, though they do possess medicinal properties. Savory leaves and tender shoots have very high chemical compounds that are known to have anti-oxidant and beneficial health properties.
Both savories have been valuable to regulate the stomach and bowels, to promote regular menstruation and as a tonic for the reproductive system. Summer savory is more often used as a medicinal herb. It has mild astringent and antiseptic properties. A tea of summer savory helps with diarrhea, colic, indigestion, stomachaches, and mild sore throats.
Winter savory has a stronger flavor than the milder summer savory though both give a peppery spice to foods and blend well with thyme, marjoram and basil. Both are used to marinate meats and fish, as well as add flavor to beans, soups, sauces and vegetables.
Summer and winter savory known as the Savories are in the genus “Satureja,” a derivative of the word for Satyr, the mythological half-man-half-goat. According to legend, the savories belonged to the Satyr. The Romans introduced it to the English where it quickly gained popularity as a medicine and a cooking herb. The Saxons named it savory for its spicy, pungent taste. It is used extensively in Mediterranean cuisine and pairs well with lentils & green beans. Winter savory was said to reduce the sex drive while, historically, summer savory was considered an aphrodisiac.
Plant winter savory in the fall and in the spring just after the last frost; both in full sun. They have needle-shaped leaves about one-inch long. Summer savory flowers are light purple to pink and winter savory flowers are small white or purple flowers. The flowers are edible as well. On the Central Coast with its long growing season, cut plants back at the beginning of spring for second growth and a second harvest. For dried leaves, cut six- to eight-inch stems just before flowering. Savories are easy to grow and provide nectar for bees so add some savory to your garden and try out its aromatic flavor.