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(Satureja hortensis)

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About Savory

Summer savory plant

The very name tells one something about the qualities of this flavoring, described as having a thyme-like taste but with “an additional, unique touch of peppery piquancy.” Most sources (that is, seedsmen’s catalogues) say that summer savory is slightly milder and less “pungent“ than its close cousin, winter savory (which, however, is a perennial); but the authoritative herbalist Gernot Katzer, quoted above, says the tastes of the two are indistinguishable. (It is said that cooks prefer the summer type.) But if we have summer savory available indoors year round, there is really no need for winter savory.


The named variety Aromata is reported as having more “essential oils“, and thus to be more intensely flavored, than “common“ summer savory; but it is scarce (we could find only one offer in the U.S.). Few or no other named types seem in evidence. (Aromata may be the kind labelled by some seed houses as “Compact”—which would slightly increase the number of offers.)


Note: summer-savory seed is short-lived. Always plant with fresh, newly bought seed. (But, as noted farther below, once grown it freely self-seeds and so is, in a sense, a “perennial”.)

Summer savory is not terribly fussy, but its ideal is a rich, light soil with plenty of moisture and a hot, dry, sunny position. It prefers a slightly alkaline soil, but, again, is not fussy; it is, though, like so many herbs, intolerant of damp soils and of shade.

Whether growing it indoors or out, seed it where it is to grow: it violently dislikes being transplanted. Sow seed carefully: just place it on the surface, then gently sift a trace of soil over it to just cover. Plants can be spaced as close as 6" (at least in a deep-dug bed), but perhaps allow a little extra for seedfall. (If being planted outdoors, summer savory can be spaced at 6 inches in a deep-dug bed.) Germination is typically about 2 weeks.


Summer savory is a fast-growing plant: it can be harvested within 2 months of sowing. When the plant reaches a reasonable height, pinch off the growing points; that will encourage bushing and increase productivity. Harvesting frequently (even if you don’t actually need some at a given time) is advised, to keep the plant fresh and productive.

If summer savory is cut back as the flower buds appear, it will supposedly produce a fresh flush of leaves.

Though it is an annual, it is reported as quite freely self-seeding—“maybe too freely” one grower remarked.

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