Herb of the month : Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis) is an aromatic summer annual that is low growing (30 to 40cm) with narrow, bright green leaves. The fresh leaves have a sweet yet peppery flavour that contain hints of thyme, marjoram and mint.
Their subtle spicy flavour suits Mediterranean and rustic French cuisine, rich sauces and slow cooked bean and meat dishes. Young sprouts add a burst of flavour to salads, sandwiches and as a topping for pizza.
The leaves keep their flavour when dried and combine well with other aromatic herbs to make stuffing’s, rubs and marinades for grilled meat and chicken as well as herbal vinegars.
Dried summer savory is also used with other dried aromatic herbs, and garlic powder as a salt substitute, a practice that started in Roman times when salt was scarce.
To grow: Like basil, summer savory grows easily from seed, available from Kirchhoffs. Start it in seed trays in early September for planting out towards the end of the month or direct sow after the last frost .
Plant in a sunny bed, in ordinary garden soil that is well composted and drains well. Regular, moderate watering is all that’s needed. Once established summer savory can tolerate hot, dry conditions.
Start picking the leaves when plants are about 15cm tall. The best time to harvest the leaves is in the afternoon when the essential oils are strongest.
To encourage bushy, well branched plants, pinch the stems about half-way down above a leaf node. Regular picking keeps the plants compact and suitable as an attractive and fragrant edging for garden beds.
Plants produce tiny white or lilac flowers in summer, that attract bees and butterflies. A centuries-old practice is to grow summer savory near beehives.
Did you know: the flavour of the leaves is sweeter and more intense just before flowering.
Preserving: After flowering, pull up the plants and hang them upside down in a cool, shaded place to dry. Once the leaves are crisply dry, crumble them and store in an air-tight container.
The fresh leaves can also be frozen. Put the leaves in zip-lock bag and roll the bag from the bottom up to push out the excess air, then seal.
Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis) – The Gardener