Although there are many varieties of savory, the only ones you’re likely to locate in the US are summer (annual) and winter (perennial) savory. The summer variety is a little less pungent and is sometimes described as tasting similar to thyme or marjoram, but has historically been used much like we use mint or parsley.
Savory is not terribly popular today in America. However, this herb was used extensively by the Romans, primarily in vinegars and sauces. It was also very popular in Shakespeare’s day and was even mentioned in The Winter’s Tale. Virgil considered it to be one of the most fragrant herbs, and it was commonly planted around bee-hives to obtain a tasty honey.
Summer savory was one of the herbs English settlers brought with them to America to remind them of home, but for some reason it never gained that much popularity in the States. Still, you can sometimes find it at better nurseries and grocery stores. Savory is also easy to grow from seed, or so they say.
Summer savory is mentioned in one of my favorite herbal books, The Modern Herbal (©1931), by Mrs. M. Grieve: “Savory has aromatic and carminative properties, and though chiefly used as a culinary herb, it may be added to medicines for its aromatic and warming qualities. It was formerly deemed a sovereign remedy for the colic and a cure for flatulence, on this account, and was also considered a good expectorant.”
Culpepper tells us, “It expels tough phlegm from the chest and lungs.”
Both the old authorities and modern gardeners agree that a sprig of any of the savory varieties rubbed on wasp and bee stings gives instant relief. I wish I had know that the other day when a hornet stung me on the back! 🙁
So, plant some savory and give it a try in any of your recipes that call for thyme, marjoram, parsley, or mint, or check out my recipe that calls for savory, Green Beans and Potatoes with Savory.
Finally. keep some savory handy if you have a wasp nest you’re planning to remove, and to use during the cold and flu season!
Copyright © by Bobbi Mullins, originally published December 6, 2012