Monday, October 18, 2010

Summer Savory, Satureja hortensis

Satureja hortensis, Summer Savory
This herb from southern Europe and a garden escapee in the American States of Ohio, Illinois and Nevada, is not as well known here as it should be. It is a small, to 30cm, annual grown from seed sown in spring. It has slender linear leaves which are soft to touch and tiny pink flowers which look like a dusting of powdered sugar over the stems. This is one of the sweet herbs and has a pleasant spicy fragrance and a resinous peppery taste with camphor overtones. My Italian neighbour at the community garden gave me a couple of small plants which have already grown large enough to provide some leaves for picking. The plants are normally quite top heavy and lurch sideways if not staked. For cooking this savory is a classic bean herb as its German name attests, Bohenkraut. It has a particular affinity with broad beans as well as string beans and gives an aromatic indescribable taste to them . French cookbooks refer to sarriette being blended with fines herbes, or in the final preparation either a la poulette or au lard, when it is chopped with parsley as well as being added to new peas.
Summer Savory gets a mention in all the old Herbals including Gerards from 1597 in which he recommends it as a dieting herb as well as for the flatulence one might encounter from eating beans! "It maketh thin; and doth marvellously prevaile against winde; therefore it is with good success boiled and eaten with beanes, peason and winde pulses"
The Latin name satureja means satyr's herb as a reference to its alleged aphrodisiac properties. Shakespeare perhaps had this in mind in the Winter's Tale (IV. iv) "Here's flowers for you, Hot Lavender, Mints, Savory, Marjoram"

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