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Satureja hortensis L.

Family : Labiatae

Other names : Bean herb


Summer savory (Satureja hortensis), an annual plant belonging to the mint family, is native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. Savory was utilized by the ancient Romans as a culinary spice and also as a medicinal herb.


Summer savory is a hairy, aromatic annual with tough straggly or erect stems reaching a height of 45 cm. It grows well under a wide range of soil and climatic conditions. The dark green leaves are long, narrow, elliptical, leathery and about 0.5 - 1.0 cm long. The flowers are lilac-pink or white and are produced in small spikes from the leaf axils in late summer.


It is grown easily from seeds sown early in spring in rows 3 feet apart. Drill the seeds to a depth of half an inch at the rate of 10 to 12 to the foot. The plants will form a solid row if spaced 3 to 4 inches apart in the row. In good soil plants grow 16 to 18 inches high and require little cultivation. The tender leaves and stems may be used any time during the season, but for drying 6 to 8 inches of the top growth should be cut when blooming begins. Sometimes two or more crops can be harvested in one season. The top growth as cut from the plants may be tied in small bunches or spread on screens or paper to dry. When thoroughly dry, the leaves should be stripped from the stems and stored in closed containers. Care should be taken to remove all small pieces of woody stems, as they interfere with the use of the leaves in flavouring foods.

The volatile oil of savory is less than 1% of the herb. The major component is carvacrol, at about 25 - 45%. Appreciable amounts of thymol (12-13%) and p-cymene (9-12%) are also present.

Culinary, medicinal and other use

Savory is seldom used in the processed food industry. The leaves, fresh or dry, may be added to water for cooking string beans or used in soups, stuffings, and sauces for veal and poultry, and also in egg dishes and salads. This herb is one of the most satisfactory mixers. Infusion of leaves is good for treating gastric upsets, indigestion and loss of appetite. Spreading flowering shoots between clothing repels moths.


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