Savory: 2015 Herb of the Year

Did you know there is an organization that hands out annual awards to herbs? 

The International Herb Association chooses to highlight one herb each year. The Herb Society of America, as part of their mission to be “dedicated to the knowledge, use and delight of herbs” produces a guide for the winner each year. In 2015, the award went to (drum roll)…


Are you excited yet? Actually, I think it’s an excellent choice because so few people know anything about this herb. If you like to cook or garden you might be familiar with summer and winter savory. I’ve grown both from time to time, but I must admit that in 2015, the Year of Savory, I have grown none. :(

This is a good time to be reminded of the unique flavor and benefits savory offers, and perhaps pick up a winter savory plant if you can find one. Since fall is fast approaching, summer savory is sadly now on its way out.

So, what’s the difference between summer and winter savory? Even though the taste is somewhat similar, there are some major differences,  But let’s look at the similarities first.

Summer and winter savory, as well as a number of other less well-known herbs, are in the genus Satureja and the Mint family. There are 2 prominent theories as to how this genus was named. 

One version is from the mythological creatures called satyrs, which were part male and part horse or goat. They were known for a particular part of their anatomy that I won’t mention here and their sexual stamina! (I have not read anywhere of this herb’s use as an aphrodisiac though.)

The other (and believed to be the most likely one), is that the name came from the Arabic za’atar, which is a common name for oregano and other herbs that smell similar, like thyme, hyssop and savory. There are other theories as well. I guess we’ll never know which one is absolutely correct, so you can pick the one you like!

Summer and winter savory are both extremely aromatic and most similar to oregano and thyme in flavor and use. They are native to the eastern Mediterranean and parts of the Middle East. They were used extensively in the Greek and Roman empires, especially before more exotic Eastern spices became available. They should be grown in full sun and fertile, well-drained soil that will receive water regularly. (That explains a lot about past failed attempts at growing it.)

Summer savory is a tender annual and can be grown from seed planted in the early spring. They do not withstand very hot and dry weather, and are usually on their last legs come August. Summer savory is often grown right next to beans, since they are usually combined in many traditional dishes. Learn more about summer savory here. For my followers around the world, you might know this herb as bohnenkraut (German for “bean herb”), sarriette des jardins (French), or ajedrea de jardin (Spanish).

Winter savory (Satureja montana “of the mountains”) on the other hand, is a hardy evergreen perennial, native to the mountainous regions of southeastern Europe and Northern Africa. It can survive winters that aren’t too harsh and is very easy to grow. I will definitely try to plant some now that I live in North Carolina. Winter savory tastes a little coarser and stronger than the more tender, summer variety. 

Both savories can be dried, frozen or made into savory butter. The flavor holds up well.

Savory contains a large amount of essential oils, and has many of the same medicinal value as thyme and oregano. They have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-oxidant properties, and help alleviate symptoms of colds, coughs and other respiratory ailments. 

Become acquainted with the 2015 Herb of the Year! Look for savory in the grocery store if you can’t find a plant, and give it a try. As the “bean herb” it goes very well with fresh green beans (now in season) and fingerling potatoes.

beans and potatoes


Essential Guide to Savory. 2015. The Herb Society of America.

Satureja. Wikipedia.

Saville, C. Cooking with Seasonal Savory. 1997. Mother Earth Living.

Savory, Herb of the Year 2015. 2014. Herbalpedia.

© Bobbi Mullins 2011, All rights reserved. FOOD FITNESS FAITH™