Winter savory vs summer savory

Cooking Beans with Savory

Savory can be used in any bean recipe both during the cooking and as a seasoning when served. Dried beans need soaking overnight before they are cooked, and then boiling hard for at least 10 minutes to destroy toxins. Following this initial preparation, drain the beans and recover with fresh water. Using an earthernware pot to cook the beans is said to further reduce their tendency to cause flatulence, so if you have one of these do use it, I also like their slow conduction of heat – beans respond well to long, slow cooking provided the initial boiling has taken place.

Having covered the beans by at least an inch with fresh water, add a good handful of savory and other flavourings, e.g. celery, onion, bay leaf and garlic cloves. Fresh slices of belly pork and a tablespoonful of black treacle produce unctuous beans, and this is the base I use for the French dish Cassoulet. If you want to add tomatoes (tinned of course at this time of year) to make a superior version of baked beans, remember that their acidity interferes with the softening process (in a similar way to salt) so add them towards the end of the cooking when the beans are already tender.

Whilst long, slow cooking in an earthernware pot is my preferred method for beans, they can be cooked more quickly. If I am just adding them to a minestrone style soup, or serving them as a warm salad, then after the initial boiling I would return them to a clean saucepan, cover with fresh water, add the Savory and other flavouring, and then just simmer until cooked. They should be soft in little over an hour. For a warm salad dress with a garlic flavoured vinaigrette and fresh Savory leaves.

Apple, Nut and Savory Stuffing

1 onion, chopped

25g/1 oz butter

2 oz hazelnuts, roughly chopped

1 stick of celery

1 small cooking apple, peeled and cored

½ tbsp chopped winter savory leaves

½ tbsp chopped parsley

50g/2 oz fresh white breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper

Heat the butter in a frying pan, add the chopped onion and cook gently until softened. Add the chopped hazelnuts and cook briefly to toast them. Chop the celery and apple and add these to the pan, followed by the herbs and breadcrumbs. Season and stir to combine adding a little more butter if required to bind the stuffing together.

Excellent for stuffing vegetables such as marrow, but also good with meat, especially pork.


Serves 4

10 oz haricot beans

piece of belly pork (approx 1-1½ lb)

4 cloves garlic

1 tbsp molasses or treacle

2 sticks of celery


winter savory

2 bay leaves

2 level tsps. whole grain mustard

black pepper

4 duck legs (fresh or confit)

4 Toulouse sausages

fresh breadcrumbs

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 8 hours

Soak the haricot beans in cold water overnight. The following morning drain them and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and boil hard for 10 minutes. Drain and place in an earthenware pot together with the belly pork and flavourings. Cover with cold water and put in the oven. Bring the temperature up to 200C/Gas Mark 6 (or start in a cold oven and transfer up to a hot one so as not to crack the earthenware pot). Once the liquid has got really hot reduce the temperature to 180C/Gas Mark 4 so that it remains simmering. Cook for 2 hours, checking the water level after the first hour.

Now that the beans are just cooked, reduce the oven temperature to 150C/Gas Mark 2 and continue cooking for a further 3 hours, checking the liquid level occasionally and adding more water if necessary.

Now add the duck and sausages, pushing them well down into the beans and cook for another 1 –1½ hours (the longer time for fresh duck).

Remove the lid and cover the surface with breadcrumbs. Cook without the lid for a further hour, turning the meat and breadcrumbs three times to brown it.

Serve with a green salad, preferably dressed with walnut oil.


The beans are more than just an addition to this soup, they also form the basis of the cooking liquor so no meat stock is required in this soup.

Serves 6

12 oz/350g dried cannelini beans, soaked overnight

4 ripe, well flavoured tomatoes (or use tinned)

2 sticks celery

2 carrots

2 leeks

11 oz/300g Cavolo Nero (sold in most supermarkets now but if you cannot find it use a dark leaf such as kale or brussel sprout tops)

2 cloves garlic

handful of winter savory

2 sprigs fresh thyme

6-8 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

To serve:

6 slices of stale country bread (2-3 days old)

7 oz/200g savoy cabbage

red onion

best olive oil

Pour off the water in which the beans have been soaking, place them in a large saucepan and cover with fresh water to a depth of 2″ above the beans. Bring to the boil and boil hard for 10 minutes, drain. Cover the beans with fresh water and add a small handful of winter savory if you have it. Bring the water back up to boiling point then reduce the heat and simmer for approx 1½ hours until the beans are tender but still whole. Drain the beans and pass three-quarters of them through a sieve or mouli-legumes into a bowl with 2 pints (1.2 litres)of fresh water. Reserve the rest of the beans separately.

Finely chop the carrots, celery and leeks. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the vegetables until soft. Meanwhile peel, de-seed and chop the tomatoes then add them to the vegetables along with the garlic and thyme. After 5 minutes add the cabbage, salt and pepper and cook for a further 10 minutes before adding the bean puree. Cook slowly for an hour adding tepid water if the soup becomes too solid, although it should be a very thick soup.

About 5-10 minutes before the end of the cooking stir in the whole beans to heat them through. Finely chop the Savoy cabbage and sauté in a little oil. Serve the soup ladled over a slice of bread and topped with cooked cabbage. Offer finely sliced red onions and olive oil at the table.

Satureja montana

Herbs can offer an amazing array of benefits. And winter savory is no exception.

From their intense flavors and fragrances to their uses in the garden attracting pollinators and repelling pests, these plants are beloved by cooks, gardeners, and herbalists alike.

Kitchen herbs like parsley, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme are commonly grown in the home garden, but many enthusiasts miss out on the delights of winter savory.

A perennial evergreen, S. montana has a much longer season than its close cousin summer savory (S. hortensis) – which you can read all about here.

Low maintenance and easy to grow, it’s also a versatile performer in the kitchen – and year-round convenience is what gives S. montana its must-have status in my garden. A freshly picked sprig added to a simmering pot of beans or stew makes a cold winter’s day seem just a little bit warmer!

Let’s dig into the growing details so you can enjoy some yourself.

What Is Winter Savory?

An evergreen perennial, winter savory is a low-growing, semi-woody herb in the mint family, Lamiaceae, and is also commonly known as creeping, mountain, or Spanish savory.

Native to the temperate climates of the Mediterranean basin, it forms low growing and multi-branched mounds that grow 8 to 15 inches high, with a 12- to 24-inch spread.

The glossy, 1-inch leaves are dense, slender, slightly leathery, and highly aromatic, appearing opposite on the stems. Small, dainty flowers appear on terminal spikes throughout summer in colors of mauve, pink, and white.

Cold hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 6-9, these plants go dormant in winter and can lose many of their mature leaves along the stem tips. But new growth quickly appears on the bare stems once longer days and warmer temperatures return.

Photo by Lorna Kring

But there are always plenty of small, year-old stems that retain their leaves throughout the year. These can be picked and enjoyed for winter cooking as needed.

The closely related summer species, S. hortensis, is a fast-growing annual, with a less intense and fresher flavor than S. montana.

Cultivation and History

Aptly named, savory comes from the from the old Latin root word sapor, which became the Old French savoure – for tasty or fragrant. The word za’atar, the name of the popular (and flavorful) Middle Eastern spice mix, also comes from the same root word.

Photo by Lorna Kring

S. montana has a deep, earthy flavor – peppery and piney with a piquant intensity – and has long been used as a seasoning.

Many antiquated texts speak of its use as a seasoning and for its healing properties. It was the Roman poet Virgil who recommended planting it near beehives, and in “The Complete Herbal,” Nicolas Culpeper favors it as a stimulant to “quicken the dull spirits.”

Introduced to Europe by the Romans, medieval walled gardens grew both the summer and winter species, and it was used to stuff meats and poultry.

The Germans discovered that fresh sprigs added to a cooking pot of beans made them easier to digest. Today, it’s still referred to as the “bean herb,” or Bohenkraut in German.

During the economic expansion of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, French and English garden designers of the day recommended planting this herb for its fragrance. This was an important component in the new “gardens of delight” that were popular with the nouveau riche.

Winter savory was introduced to the US by European colonists in the 1800s.


Winter savory can be propagated by seed or stem cuttings.

From Seed

Sow seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost, sowing lightly on the surface of trays containing a prepared starting medium. Don’t cover them with soil, as they need light to germinate. You should notice seeds sprouting in 10-14 days.

Keep the soil moist but not wet. When the seedlings have at least four sets of true leaves, transplant to containers or the herb garden – provided there’s no risk of frost. Handle gently to reduce transplant shock.

From Stem Cuttings

For propagation via cuttings, take 4- to 6-inch cuttings in spring or fall, and strip the leaves from the bottom 2 inches.

Dip the cut ends into a powdered rooting hormone and place them in small pots of wet sand, or a prepared seed starting mix amended with 1/3 sand.

Once roots have formed, in about 4 to 6 weeks, transplant into the garden or larger containers.

By Division

Root division is also an option, and it’s a good choice for aging container-grown plants that need to be rejuvenated.

In spring, remove plants from their containers and trim away about a third of any wrapped or bound roots.

Divide the root ball into thirds or quarters, ensuring that each section has a healthy piece of root and stems with green leaves attached.

Remove one-third of the top growth, and trim away any dead or damaged stems and leaves.

Replant in containers or directly into the garden. Learn more about dividing perennials here.

How to Grow

S. montana requires a full sun location.

Photo by Lorna Kring

This herb prefers soil with a neutral pH of 6.0-8.0 that is well-draining and moderately fertile.

Enrich the planting soil with a mix of 1/3 organic matter such as aged compost or well-rotted manure, and 1/3 coarse sand or grit to improve drainage.

Choose a site where plants can remain undisturbed, and prepare planting holes 8 to 10 inches apart, twice as wide and a bit deeper than the root balls.

Mix a little bone meal into the planting site to encourage strong, healthy root growth.

Set plants in place and backfill holes with the planting mix, gently firming the soil in place over the roots.

Water lightly and provide regular moisture until established. Once plants are settled, in 4 to 6 weeks, dry to moderate moisture levels are sufficient. Allow the soil to dry out between watering deeply bi-weekly. For container plants, water when the top inch of soil is dry.

Apply a top dressing of organic matter like compost in spring but avoid liquid fertilizers – savory’s flavor is improved when grown in lean soil.

Trim in early spring before new growth emerges, removing last season’s spent seed heads – or approximately 1/3 of overall growth.

Plants are cold hardy to around 10°F. If temperatures in your region regularly dip to this mark, select a sheltered planting site and provide cold insulation during the winter months.

A thick, 4- to 5-inch-thick straw mulch spread over the crown and out to the drip line will help protect against freezing temperatures and drying winds. Remove the mulch in spring.

Older plants can become woody and benefit from regular pruning to encourage new growth and a full, bushy form.

Plants are short-lived and need to be replaced every 4-5 years in the garden, and every 2-4 years if grown in containers.


To bring plants indoors for winter, provide a pot measuring at least 12 inches in diameter and with a similar depth.

Use a potting mix amended with 1/3 coarse sand and ensure the soil and pot drain freely.

Place plants in a cool, sunny window with at least 6 hours of light per day. Or, use a full spectrum grow light.

Water lightly when the top inch of soil is dry, and ensure plants are well-spaced in the pot with ample air circulation.

Cultivars to Select

It can be quite difficult to find winter savory in most grocery stores, but some nurseries have seedlings – if they carry an extensive selection of herbs. It is possible to buy plants and seeds online from our trusted affiliates.

Winter Savory Plants

If you want to get a head-start, packages of three winter savory plants are available from Burpee.

Or why not start your own from seed?

Winter Savory Seeds

You can buy packets of 200 seeds from David’s Garden Seeds via Amazon.

Managing Pests and Disease

So easy to care for, S. montana plants have no serious disease problems to report, and most pests tend to avoid it. Leafhoppers, spittlebugs, and spider mites can make occasional appearances, but the damage that they may cause is generally insignificant.

Companion Planting

Winter savory is highly attractive to pollinators like bees, and it’s a natural planted near beehives for the superbly flavored, piney honey produced.

It repels cabbage moths and can be planted with any cruciferous veggies for pest protection.

Planting with beans and onions is said to improve the flavor of both. It also repels bean weevils, and when planted at the base of roses, can reduce infestation of aphids and mildew.

Harvest and Storage

As a perennial, leaves can be picked year-round, although the flavor is typically best during the summer.

Harvest sprigs in the morning, after the dew has dried – this is when their essential oils are most potent and flavorful.

Cut from mature stalks only, leaving at least half of the stalk intact for future growth.

Store the fresh sprigs in a small jar of water until you’re ready to use them, kept out of direct sunlight. Or, place them in the refrigerator where they will stay fresh for 10 to 14 days.

The flavor is best when it’s used fresh, but you can also dry your harvest for longer term storage.

To dry, bundle stems with kitchen twine and hang them in a cool, airy spot out of direct sunlight. Or, place the stems in your food dehydrator at its lowest setting, 95 to 115°F for 1 to 2 hours.

Don’t have a dehydrator? You can learn about the best models .

Once they are dry, gently strip the leaves from the stems and store whole leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dark cupboard. Stored properly, dried leaves will last 3-4 years.

To retain the best flavor, crush fresh leaves just before using.

Fresh sprigs can also be used to infuse and flavor cooking oils and vinegars.

Best Garden Uses

Winter savory is happy growing in containers, herb or kitchen gardens, and rockeries, or tucked into walls in vertical garden planters.

Because of its tolerance for drought and poor soil, it makes a good choice for rocky banks or slopes. It also makes an aromatic edging plant for beds and borders.

And as an excellent companion, it can be planted liberally in vegetable and flower beds as a pest repellent.

Recipes and Cooking Ideas

In the kitchen, flavorful leaves can be used fresh or dried in numerous recipes, typically to season fish, game, meat, and poultry, as well as in soups, stews, and stuffing.

And it’s delicious added to herb or cheese breads – it’s what gives a spicy tang to Sue’s Savory Muffins, for example. You can find the recipe for these .

Add fresh sprigs when cooking legumes, like peas and beans, or cabbage, to add flavor and make them more digestible.

Fresh leaves add piquant flavor to compound butters, cooked grains, herbed cheeses, risotto, salads (chicken, green, and potato), salad dressings, vegetables, and vinegars.

Quick Reference Growing Guide

Plant Type: Semi-woody herb, perennial Tolerance: Deer and rabbit resistant, drought, poor and rocky soil
Native To: Mediterranean Basin and southwest Asia Water Needs: Low to moderate
Hardiness (USDA Zone): 6-9 Maintenance: Moderate
Season: Evergreen Soil Type: Average to lean fertility
Exposure: Full sun Soil pH: Neutral, 6.0-8.0
Time to Maturity: 90 days Soil Drainage: Well-draining
Spacing: 12-15 inches Companion Planting: Beans, cabbage, onions, roses
Planting Depth: Deep as root ball Attracts: Honey bees
Height: 12-15 inches Family: Lamiaceae
Spread: 12-24 inches Genus: Satureja
Pests & Diseases: No serious pest or disease problems Species: S. montana

Some Like It Hot

With a few winter savory plants growing in your kitchen garden, you can enjoy its spicy, earthy flavor year-round.

Add it to your bean or cabbage patch or your rose beds to keep pests away, and be sure to plant a few close to paths to enjoy their spicy fragrance in the garden!

Do you folks have any favorite uses for this evergreen herb? Drop us a line in the comments below.

And if you enjoyed this growing guide, here are a few more herbal primers that might interest you:

  • How to Grow Bee Balm: Bring Out the Hummingbirds
  • How to Grow and Use Lemon Balm
  • Grow Faassen’s Catmint for Durable Summer Color


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Photos by Lorna Kring © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on December 19, 2019. Last updated: January 7, 2020 at 20:20 pm. Product photos via Burpee and David’s Garden Seeds. Uncredited photos: . With additional writing and editing by Clare Groom and Allison Sidhu.

About Lorna Kring

A writer, artist, and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who got hooked on organic and natural gardening methods at an early age. These days, her vegetable garden is smaller to make room for decorative landscapes filled with color, fragrance, art, and hidden treasures. Cultivating and designing the ideal garden spot is one of her favorite activities – especially for gathering with family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!

Back when Diane “Princess Di” Winslow had her nursery It’s About Thyme up and running, she would sometimes get a little frustrated.

For decades she has lovingly cultivated winter savory plants to pass on to her nursery customers throughout the area, but for some reason, the buying public snubbed the herb.

If those same folks could have tasted a bowl of Di’s Great Northern beans (recipe below) flavored with winter savory, they would be sold.

Winter savory, AKA mountain savory, or white thyme (Satureja montana) is a xeric, perennial herb that is easily cultivated in Central Texas. Growing a foot tall on an evergreen mounding plant, it blooms summer to late summer with spikes of white to lilac flowers, with purple spots on the bottom lip, preferring a haircut after it blooms.

It requires full sun and needs excellent drainage, doing better in stony soil than rich beds. Winter savory is first cousin to summer savory and has a stronger flavor than its wimpy brethren (summer savory really hates growing in Central Texas heat), with a higher concentration of thymol and carvacol. The plant originated in Western and Central Asia, and is considered native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean.

The genus Satureja was named by the Roman writer Pliny, and some folks feel it is derived from the word “satyr”, the half-man, half-goat Dionysiac woodland sprites in Roman mythology who chased maenids and bacchans.

There is a common etymological origin with the Turkish word sater, the Hebrew za’atar, and the Arabic az-za’tar, terms used today in the Eastern Mediterranean to describe different aromatic herbs or an herbal spice mix. The Romans used this herb for cooking and introduced it to Northern Europe during Caesar.

The glossy foliage is intensely aromatic, contributing an herbal, sharp, peppery flavor to dishes when added at the last minute, and mellowing-out the longer it is cooked. Historically it was used as a substitute for black pepper, and Hispanics use it when epazote can’t be found.

It is the ideal herb to add to a pot of beans (in German it is called bohnenkraut, which means “bean’s herb”), and it works well with meaty stews, or seafood breading. It pairs particularly well with any type of mushroom, in white sauces and vinaigrettes, and in potato salads.

Medicinally, it is said to be a remedy for colic and a cure for flatulence, and has been used to treat gastro-enteritis, cystitis, nausea, diarrhea, bronchial congestion, sore throat and menstrual disorders. It should not be used in medicinal doses by pregnant women.

Incredibly, a sprig of the plant, rubbed onto bee or wasp stings after the stinger is removed, brings instant relief. In the garden, it is the perfect companion plant for beans (repels bean weevils), and roses (reduces mildew and aphids).

Mick Vann is a cookbook author, food writer and blogger, restaurant consultant, recipe developer and horticulturist.

Winter and Summer Savory

Savory (Summer) (Satureja hortensis)

Summer savory is a tender annual that grows up to 18 inches tall. It has small bronze-green leaves and very small white or lavender flowers. The leaves are pungent and spicy.
Summer savory grows best in a well-worked loamy soil. Seed can be planted in the garden in spring.
Cut leafy tops when the plants are in bud. Hang in an airy, shaded place until crisp and dry.
Summer savory is popular as a condiment with meats and vegetables and is generally considered sweeter than winter savory.
Savory (Winter) (Satureja montana)
Winter savory has dark green, shiny, pointed leaves much stiffer in texture than summer savory. It is a woody perennial plant growing to 2 feet in height with small white or lavender flowers.
Winter savory does best in a light, sandy soil. Keep dead wood trimmed out. Propagate by cuttings or raise from seed.
Pick young shoots and leaves at any time. The leaves are almost evergreen but not as pungent in winter. It is best dried for winter use.
Winter savory is a condiment often used as a flavoring in liqueurs. Its taste is not as sweet as summer savory.

“Adapted from publication NE-208, produced by the Cooperative Extension Services of the Northeast States.”

Satureja hortensis

Do you love the bright flavor and aroma of fresh herbs? Then you should really devote some time and garden space to growing summer savory.

An annual herb, Satureja hortensis is a low-growing plant that belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is related to rosemary and thyme. Used for millennia as a seasoning, it also has medicinal properties and was once popular in love potions as an aphrodisiac!

Native to the eastern Mediterranean and the Caucasus, it’s a highly aromatic herb and features a hot, peppery flavor with notes of marjoram, mint, and thyme. Its flavor is also similar to that of its perennial cousin, winter savory – although the winter variety has a slightly more bitter, earthy taste.

Summer (in the foreground) and winter varieties. Photo by Lorna Kring.

It grows to a height of 12-18 inches and features thickly branched stems covered in narrow dark green leaves. By mid-summer it produces small white, pink, or lilac flowers with seeds forming shortly after.

Here’s what’s to come:

How to Grow Summer Savory

  • The Love Herb
  • In the Medicine Cabinet
  • For the Kitchen Garden
  • Care and Cultivation
  • Plant Facts
  • Where to Buy
  • The Spice of Life

Easily grown, you can begin to harvest leaves when the plants are just 5-6 inches tall. Let’s dig in!

The Love Herb

Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans considered summer savory to be an aphrodisiac, and associated it with supernatural beings and lusty satyrs – and later, the Druids used it as part of their rituals celebrating the fertility of the summer season.

Indeed, during the Middle Ages, European monasteries prohibited growing this risque herb so as not to tempt monks to break their vows of chastity!

The word “savory” comes from the old Latin word sapor, which means “taste” or “flavor,” and is used to describe foods with a salty or spicy flavor – a perfect description for this flavorful herb, which was used by the Romans as a replacement for salt when supplies ran low.

In the Medicine Cabinet

With its many antioxidants and intense essential oils, this tangy herb has long been used to treat a variety of ailments.

Steeped leaves are sometimes used to ease a sore throat, or as an antiseptic gargle. It is also reportedly used to enhance appetite, as a remedy for stomach and digestive disorders, and to help alleviate symptoms of asthma and colic.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

It also has astringent and anti-inflammatory properties, and is used by herbalists and natural practitioners in liniment or poultice form to ease the pain of inflamed joints, and to treat the sting and swelling of insect bites.

Plus, its essential oil can be made into an invigorating tonic said to assist with issues of passion and l’amour!

For the Kitchen Garden

The Roman army was responsible for introducing this flavorful herb to Europe and the British Isles, and it was one of the few spicy seasonings available until the spice route opened, introducing items like black pepper to new areas of the world.

For a steady supply of fresh leaves, plant up a pot or two for the kitchen garden and place in a sunny spot.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

Direct sow in the spring, or transplant seedlings in April once the risk of frost has passed, into a light, loamy soil. Ensure your container has good drainage.

You can find more care and cultivation tips below.

Begin to harvest leaves as soon as the young plants are 5-6 inches tall. Pinch the stems about halfway down, just above a leaf node, and use the trimmed leaves for the kitchen.

Pinching in this way also encourages new branches to form, and prevents leggy plants.

Leaves can be harvested throughout the summer, but the flavor is sweeter and more intense before flowering begins.

Flavor is best in fresh leaves, but they can also be dried and frozen. Or, you can always grow some of the winter variety for year-round supply of evergreen leaves.

Satureja montana. Photo by Lorna Kring.

One of the main ingredients in herbes de Provence, savory is often used fresh or dried, and is well suited for slow cooking or added with a light touch at the end of cooking. It can also be used to replace thyme in many recipes.

Popular in Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, and Romania) and in the Acadian cuisine of Atlantic Canada, it’s widely used to season many delicious dishes including:

  • Beans
  • Cretons
  • Game
  • Lamb
  • Lentils
  • Meat pies
  • Pizza
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Rice
  • Sauces
  • Sausages
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Stuffing
  • Vegetables
  • Vinegars

It also makes a delicious addition to marinades or dry rubs for grilled meats, particularly chicken, lamb, and pork. And it combines well with other herbs and aromatics such as basil, bay leaves, cumin, garlic, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and thyme.

Young sprouts can also be used to add a peppery zest to salads and sandwiches.

And thanks to its rich flavor, it can be successfully used as a salt substitute for those on a low-sodium diet.

Care and Cultivation

For the best germination rate, start seeds indoors in late winter using a light, loamy mix of potting soil. Keep the soil moist, but not wet, and place under grow lights or on a sunny windowsill.

Once the seedlings have several sets of true leaves, and after all danger of frost has passed, plant into containers or directly into the ground.

You can also direct sow into the soil in early April, thinning as needed once seedlings are big enough.

Savory grows best in rich, well-drained soil amended with organic materials and requires a full sun location.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

It can tolerate both dry or moist soils, but not sopping wet conditions, and is also drought tolerant. Fertilizer usually isn’t required if the soil has been enriched with well-rotted compost or manure.

Once plants begin to flower, pull up and dry by hanging upside down in a cool, airy location out of direct sunlight. Once dry, crumble or grind into a powder and store in an airtight container.

Or, you can freeze fresh leaves in a zip-top bag, rolling the bag from the bottom up to squeeze out excess air before sealing.

Photo by Lorna Kring.

And remember to leave some plants in place for seeds to form.

Once leaves begins to die back in late summer, collect seeds and store for next year’s garden.

If left in the garden, savory will reseed itself, but this isn’t the most reliable method of propagation – it’s best to start seeds in a controlled environment.

Plant Facts

  • Several species make up the genus, but only the summer and winter (Satureja montana) varieties are commercially grown
  • Its close relative, winter savory, is a perennial evergreen hardy to Zone 6
  • Highly aromatic, the poet Virgil recommended planting near beehives to flavor honey
  • Pick savory leaves in the afternoon when the essential oils are strongest
  • Makes an attractive, fragrant edging plant for garden beds
  • Attracts beneficial pollinators to the garden, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds

Where to Buy

Inexplicably, this tasty herb can be difficult to find in both grocery stores and garden centers. Look for nurseries that carry a good selection of herbs to find seedlings, or pick up some seeds and start your own.

S. Hortensis Package of 500 Seeds

Seeds are available in garden centers in early spring, or you can shop online and order a package. Packets of 500 seeds from Seed Needs are available via Amazon.

Summer Savory Seeds

A variety of package sizes are also available from True Leaf Market.

The Spice of Life

Wonderfully fragrant with a peppery, piquant flavor, summer savory makes a great addition to the potted kitchen garden, and serves as an attractive ornamental in beds and borders.

Delicious in any recipe that calls for the more common kitchen herbs like rosemary or thyme, it can be used to season a variety of salty or spicy dishes – like these delicious savory muffins .

Photo by Lorna Kring.

Try growing some yourself this year – you’ll love how easy this prolific herb is to care for! Do you have any favorite uses for the love herb? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!


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Photos by Lorna Kring © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Seed Needs and True Leaf Market. Uncredited photos: . Originally published by Lynne Jaques on September 10th, 2014. Last updated on June 22nd, 2018.

The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.

A writer, artist, and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who got hooked on organic and natural gardening methods at an early age. These days, her vegetable garden is smaller to make room for decorative landscapes filled with color, fragrance, art, and hidden treasures. Cultivating and designing the ideal garden spot is one of her favorite activities – especially for gathering with family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!

Summer Savory Is the Skinny Herb Nobody Knows, But All Cooks Should Grow

Summer savory (Satureja hortensis, native to Southeastern Europe) has been growing on my New York City terrace for four years. The annual cousin to hardy winter savory (Satureja montana), I find it more flexible in culinary applications as its flavor develops during the growing season. While it remains relatively unknown on American shores, I can’t imagine my summer cooking without its thyme-y pungence.

After buying my first, hard-to-find seedling (Editor’s note: Try Silver Heights Farm at Union Square Greenmarket) I never spent another penny, as it self-seeds (maybe too) freely, popping up in spring all over my container garden.

The savory growing calendar looks like this:

– May: The tiny volunteer seedlings are identified, the strongest selected and the rest weeded out ruthlessly.

– June: The leaves are fragile and soft and I push tender tips into the cavity of a roast chicken. They make a flavor-popping herb sauce for grilled portobello mushrooms: I chop a whole cup of fresh savory leaves — you can use the tender stalks, too; add a cup of chopped flatleaf parsley and a crushed clove of garlic, and cook both very gently in about four tablespoons of butter. After five minutes, add a squeeze of lemon juice, cook another minute or so for it to caramelize a little, and pour over grilled mushrooms just before eating. I also use it as a substitute for parsley in gremolata to serve with oily fish like mackerel or bluefish.

– July: Plants reach maturity and start losing their flavor-concentrated heads to the kitchen on a regular basis. The midsummer leaves paired with olive oil and an anchovy or two are dribbled over a good steak, or over toasted, salted pieces of sourdough bread as an unconventional snack with drinks. Otherwise use summer savory for a green herb rub – chopped up with some lemon zest and garlic for pork ribs, or underneath the skin of a spatchcocked chicken grilled on the coals.

– August: Right now. Pretty little white flowers appear. Bees love them. I begin to pick extravagant bunches for mixing into lamb meatballs with pomegranate molasses and for marinating barbecue-bound butterflied legs of lamb with summer savory and yogurt.

– September: I cut the plants down, freeing those containers for the sowing of fall salad greens. After a couple of hours in a 200-degree oven, the leaves and seeds will keep in a mason jar through the winter. I’m not much into dried herbs, but I fell in love with the intense, unrestrained flavor of dried summer savory. During the cool and the freezing months the dried herb is added in luxurious pinches to paprikash, or to a bowl of salt and ground paprika as a table condiment, a practice common in Bulgaria.

Summer savory needs full sun to grow well (six hours or more), a daily drink of water and well-drained soil. If you can’t find the plants and seeds in nurseries, at Greenmarkets or online, I can mail out baggies while supplies last. If you’d like some, holler back here in the comments.

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