Growing Aromatic savory
Both summer and winter savory are deliciously aromatic herbs which have been popular for centuries for flavouring stuffings, stews and bean dishes.
Summer savory(Satureia hortensis) and winter savory (Satureia montana) are among the oldest of cultivated herbs, grown for hundreds of years for their small, powerfully-scented leaves. They are members of the Labiatae family, which includes the sages, and the flavour is somewhat similar to that of marjoram, but stronger and somewhat peppery. Summer savory is a tender annual which grows to about 30 cm (1’) high, and bears pale, pinkish-lilac flowers from late summer to autumn. It has a finer flavour than winter savory, which is a perennial sub-shrub with highly aromatic evergreen foliage, which reaches a height of about 38 cm (15 ). Include both types in your herb garden; both are very easy to grow, although the cultivation for each is a bit different.
Sow seeds of summer savory outdoors from mid- to late spring. Choose a site in full sun where theis rich and well drained. Break up heavy clay with lighter material, such as coarse sand, before sowing. Sow the seed thinly in narrow drills about 30-60 cm (1-2’) apart, and cover lightly with soil. Germination should take place in 10-14 days. Thin the to a final spacing of 15 cm (6”) and water regularly until the plants are well established, after which they will tolerate quite dry conditions.
Cultivation for summer savory is a simple matter of keeping the bed weed free, and watering during very dry weather. The leaves will be ready for harvesting about three months after sowing, just as flowering is about to begin. Summer savory is always dried before use; cut the stems with the leafy sprigs still attached, and hang them in a warm, dark, well-ventilated place until the leaves are thoroughly dry. Then rub them off the stems and store in an airtight opaque container.
Summer savory is also an excellent choice for a container herb garden. Sow the seeds in early spring in a pot or windowbox filled with a good quality moist potting. Keep the container in a sunny place, and water the compost as it dries out. The leaves will be ready to be cut and dried in 10 to 12 weeks.
Low-growing and compact, winter savory is a good choice for a border plant. It is also useful if you plan to try a knot-garden pattern in your herb garden, as it can be clipped to shape and controlled quite easily. Do not leave it untrimmed, as it will become straggly and unkempt looking.
A well-drained, slightly sandy soil is ideal for winter savory, and the site should have sun for at least part of the day. You can raise it from seed, following the instructions for summer savory but, as winter savory grows rather slowly, it is better to propagate it fromor by root division for quick results. In late spring, you can either take from new sideshoots and root them in sand, or lift and divide root clumps. The plants resulting from both methods can be put in their permanent positions in late summer.
Cultivation for winter savory is also quite simple. The plants need water in dry weather, and they should be clipped in autumn, partly to keep their shape and partly so that the softer, more vulnerable parts are removed before the cold weather. In early spring it can be cut again, much harder, to encourage a closely-packed, bushy appearance. It is best to wait until the second year of growth before taking leaves for use in the kitchen. As the dried leaves of winter savory are very hard, cut only a few fresh ones for use at a time. You might also want to pot up a plant in autumn to keep indoors overwinter, to make sure of a supply of fresh leaves. Plants left outdoors will cease to grow in autumn, but growth will begin again in early spring; cloche protection is not usually necessary, unless the winter is severely cold.
Both savories are free of most. In fact, they seem to have the ability to repel blackfly, and for this reason they are often planted near such crops as , which are extremely prone to blackfly attacks. The savories are attractive to bees, and a traditional remedy to relieve the pain of a bee sting is to apply a dressing of crushed savory leaves. A sprig hung in the wardrobe will repel moths; replace it with a fresh sprig when the scent fades. .