SavoryThis year we get two herbs for the 2015 “Herb of the Year” from the International Herb Association as savory comes in annual (summer) and perennial (winter) varieties.

Summer savory ummer savory, Satureja hortensis, is a charming, aromatic, fast growing annual that arrived in North America with the Pilgrims. It grows up to 14 in. tall and 12 in. wide and is native to the area from the eastern Mediterranean to western Iran. It has spikes of white or pink flowers. Winter savory, Satureja montana, is a slow growing, perennial shrub that is native to southern Europe, the Ukraine, North Africa and Turkey. It grows up to 15 in. tall and 8 in. wide, has pinkish flowers and is cold tolerant to Zone 4.

Summer savory grows quickly from seed and likes full sun and well-drained soil. It can be harvested ruthlessly as it grows new leaves from the old stems. It makes a nice potted plant and will grow in the house with lots of light. In the garden, planted in clumps, it gives a pretty show with its small flowers and foliage that turns light purple in late summer.

Winter savory is very slow to germinate from seed so growing from cuttings or plant divisions is recommended. Although many prefer the taste of summer savory with its hints of basil and lavender, the peppery flavor and aroma are similar for both savories, but winter savory is stronger and more piquant with a heartiness like sage or thyme. The genus name Satureja comes from the Latin satyrus meaning “a satyr”, the mythical creature that was half-man, half-goat and was believed to have acquired great sexual prowess from eating savory.

Both summer and winter savory are good growing companions for beans and onions in the garden. They both have a sharp, hot flavor that has earned them the name “pepper herb” and they can be used to replace pepper in recipes. They aid in digestion especially varies of beans. A sprig added to cabbage water will keep down the strong odor.