The name savory is derived from its old name of satureia, which is believed to have meant ‘satyr’ – a reference to the plant’s supposedly aphrodisiacal qualities.
Summer savory, satureia hortensis, is a dainty aromatic herb which grows about 2 in (30 cm) high. The stems are reddish and the narrow oblong leaves are a soft greyish-green. The tiny flowers are white or pale mauve and grow in the axils of the leaves, sometimes three together. They bloom in July and August and the whole plant is strongly but sweetly scented.
Summer savory has an unusual taste, somewhat like thyme but not so strong, and it is slightly peppery. It has a definite place in the kitchen where whole fresh sprigs, dropped into the water when cooking broad beans and peas, bring out their flavours so that they are particularly delicious. It can be added to pea soup, meat stews and poached fish, stuffings for poultry and to a savoury butter. It is quite a strong herb and should be used in moderation.
Summer savory is a bushy annual and grows from seed sown in early April. Choose a sunny position in light soil to which some good compost has been added. The seeds are slow to germinate but make sturdy plants once they start to grow. Thin out the seedlings to a handspan apart.
Summer savory leaves can be used fresh up until the time the flowers appear. Just before the flowers bloom the plants can be cut down for drying for use in the winter months. They are then dried and stored in the usual way.
Summer savory is an excellent herb for the digestive system and for flatulence and colic.
* To make savory tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water on to 1-2 teaspoons of herb. Leave to in fuse for 10-15 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey if necessary. The tea can be taken after meals but should be freshly made each time. For flatulence a small glassful taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach may be helpful.
* Summer savory provides an instant remedy for bee and wasp stings. Rub fresh crushed leaves on to the affected part to relieve the pain.
Summer savory can be added to the bath water. The sweet intense perfume makes a heady and invigorating bath.
* To make a herbal bath: Put a large bunch of the herb in a muslin or cheesecloth bag and tie it to the hot tap (faucet) so that the water rushes through.
* The strong aromatic scent of the herb makes it a suitable one to add to a potpourri mixture or to pack into small muslin or cheesecloth bags and place in drawers or cupboards (closets).