Satureja means Savory. It is an ancient word that is simple and to the point.
Savory is one of the great words that goes with almost everything good in life.
If we are smart we savor as much as possible. It is the perfect word to
describe these diminutive members of the herb world.
The most common and well-known Savory
is Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis), a warm-weather annual that is
best directly seeded into its permanent location. We prefer the
durability and ease of perennials, or in this case, Winter Savory. It is a great mystery why
Winter Savory is relatively unknown when
for hundreds of years both Winter and Summer Savory have been grown and used, virtually
side by side. Both have strong spicy flavor. Winter Savory is a one-foot, dark green,
semi-woody, herbaceous perennial that is hardy in zones 5 to 11. Easy
to grow, it makes an attractive border plant for any culinary herb garden. Plant
where it can get about six hours of sun a day in soil that drains well.
Winter Savory's growth cycle starts in early spring as it emerges from the ground with lush,
flavorful, rapidly-growing stems. The longer these stems grow, the
woodier they get. If left on the plant, they reach about 12 inches long and produce
clouds of small white flowers. While attractive, this elongated flower branch is not very tasty.
Supple sprigs that push up from the ground and new side shoots off the older
woody stems are perfect for fresh or dried use. Older leaves along the arching
woody branches should be left behind; they have more chance of unsightly damage from insects and weather and
can become a bit like shoe leather. Removing old branches back to the
ground a couple of times a year keeps the plant clean and
open to the sun and air, and produces more lush growth.
Winter Savory can be
used in any recipe calling for savory or Summer Savory. It is a great mixing
herb that blends well with different culinary oreganos, thymes and basils
and can be added to meat, poultry or fish. Its small
leaves are the perfect complement to herb cheeses or as last-minute additions to sautés.
Even though it has a strong flavor when fresh, it does not hold up well to prolonged
stewing. Famous for making its mark on beans, dried Savory also perks up stuffing and can be mixed with Sage, Thyme, and Bay. Add to ground
pork with Fennel Seed, Cayenne Pepper, and Thyme. Or add a pinch to Chicken
Salad or hearty soup. There are very few dishes that a little Winter
Savory won't make better. More Savory
Winter Savory (Satureja montana) also has a lesser known creeping form called, what else,
Creeping Winter Savory (Satureja montana
variety grows close to the ground, 6 inches tall, on trailing stems that are
beautiful spilling over pots. It has a longer growing season which makes it a better
choice for winter indoor growing. And, while not quite as savory as Summer or Winter
Savory, it is still flavorful and worthwhile growing and using. It also benefits
from periodic shearing of woody branches.
While Winter and
Summer Savory are associated with Northern European cuisine, Pink Savory
(Satureja thymbra) is a flavor found in Spain where it was introduced by the
Moors who ruled the Iberian Peninsula from 800 to 1492. The Moors, Arabians from North
Africa, brought the spice with them from Southern Asia. Pink Savory is an ingredient
in the spice mix Zatar.
Zatar, like Curry, is a blend of herbs that varies by region.
combination often mentioned is Pink Savory, Conehead Thyme, Thymbra spicata and
Rich, and somewhat sweet, Pink Savory, also called barrel sweetener,
makes a light and refreshing tea. It forms a stiff, open one foot globe of
small, fragrant and slightly fuzzy foliage. Tiny pink flowers appear for several weeks in
spring making it worthy of a spot in the perennial border. Success is nearly guaranteed by
this plants tolerance for drought and its tenacious yet well mannered growth habit.
An evergreen, Pink Savorys appearance is maintained by shearing the
flowers off after bloom and pruning any ragged, woody branches out in early spring
when growth has resumed. Its foliage and flowers may be used fresh or dried.
David Douglas found
Yerba Buena (the Good Herb) growing in San Francisco where the mint scented plant was and
still is used as a remedy for nearly every malady. Yerba Buena tea is the Olde California
version of Chicken Soup. Today, its medicinal value is often overlooked in
favor of other plants that may be more effective. A herbaceous vine with 1 inch diameter,
scalloped leaves and insignificant flowers, it thrives in cool moist conditions and is
stunted when stressed by drought or hot direct sun. A shaded hanging patio pot would make
an inviting home where Yerba Beuna could send out its long, drooping, fragrant branches.
Jamaican Mint Bush or Satureja viminea is a very minty savory
with great possibilities. The small 1/2 to 1/4 inch oval, glossy, lime green foliage can
match any spearmint for potency, and yet it is not saddled with Mints aggressive
nature. Even though it is frost sensitive it grows quite vigorously in one season and can
be moved indoors. It grows well in a pot and survives inside with good light.
Lemon Savory (Satureja
biflora), is a small, under 1foot , dainty bush with tiny leaves. Some say it is
an annual and others say it is perennial. We aren’t sure. It will grow from year
to year for us in the greenhouse, but quite reluctantly. Even though it is an
interesting plant with many savory attributes, we would have to say that
and Lemon Verbena are easier to grow and just as, if not more, lemony.
Tagetes (Ta JEE teez)
may sound unfamiliar but Marigold is no doubt known to all. Tagetes is the genus that
includes the infamous annual flowers that frame our borders and protect our tomatoes from
nematodes. Fortunately, it also contains some beautiful and delicious perennials.
Just as the lesser known Savories live in the shadow of Summer Savory, these
perennial Marigolds live in the shadow of their famous annual cousins.
Lemmonii sometimes known as Lemmons marigold
is a large ornamental shrub with a lemony smell and lots of single yellow marigold
flowers. A profuse bloomer over a long season it is commonly used in warm climates
as an addition to the perennial border or as an accent shrub along hot sunny walls.
Its bright green fern like foliage, wispy and soft, belies its tough arid
heritage. Native to Southern Arizona it is quite possible it was discovered by J.G. Lemmon
and his new bride Sara Plummer during their honeymoon around 1880. The Lemmons were
responsible for numerous botanical finds mostly in the Sierra Nevada foothills where J. G.
went to recover after fighting for the union in the Civil War. His wife and lifelong
botanical companion even had a genus named after her, Plummera.
Tagetes lucida has several
common names and is growing in popularity with cooks. Known as Winter Tarragon, Spanish
Tarragon or Mexican Mint Marigold this perennial marigold tastes of sweet licorice.
It is a three to four foot tall herb with 3" long, dark green, narrow leaves.
Sometimes it is touted as a good substitute for French Tarragon but it really is not
spicy enough. An attractive plant with small gold flowers, it can be mixed with
perennials where the coarse texture of the leaves sets off gray or fern-like foliage.
The flowers appear late in fall and where it is cold early, may never be seen.
For more information on Tagetes lucida send for our Tarragon Trials newsletter where
we compare it with French Tarragon.
Lying on a dusty
shelf waiting for a thief in the night, Citrus Scented Marigold
(Tagetes Nelsonii) is the rarest of gems. This
ornamental and fragrant 3 plant is a must have. Its stems are reddish
and striking against the dark green leaves that are like your hand with fingers extended.
Its flowers also come late and are not often observed here. It is the
stateliness of the plant and its fruity musk like scent that are impossible to
ignore. We know very little about its origins. Named for E.W. Nelson
who discovered it in Chiapas, Mexico in 1895, we have never seen this plant for sale anywhere in our travels and have had it for
so long are not sure where it came to us from. It is a beautiful plant we are glad
we have not missed.
All three of these
perennial Tagetes are herbaceous here in zone 8. We lose them above ground with frost but
find them stronger and larger the next spring. Not something we can say about any