Herbs & Plants

Summer Savory (Satureia hortensis)

Botanical Name: Satureia hortensis
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Satureja
Species: S. hortensis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Lamiales
Summer savory is called :cimbru in Romanian and chubrica in Bulgarian

Habitat: Summer Savory   is native to S.E. Europe to W. Asia . It grows on  dry gravelly and stony slopes to 1500 metres.
Part Used: Herb.
The genus Satureia (the old Latin name used by Pliny) comprises about fourteen species of highly aromatic, hardy herbs or under-shrubs, all, except one species, being natives of the Mediterranean region.
Several species have been introduced into England, but only two, the annual Summer or Garden Savory and the perennial, Winter Savory are generally grown. The annual is more usually grown, but the leaves of both are employed in cookery, like other sweet herbs, the leaves and tender tops being used, with marjoram and thyme, to season dressings for turkey, veal or fish.

Both species were noticed by Virgil as being among the most fragrant of herbs, and on this account recommended to be grown near bee-hives. There is reason to suppose that they were cultivated in remote ages, before the East Indian spices were known and in common use. Vinegar, flavoured with Savory and other aromatic herbs, was used by the Romans in the same manner as mint sauce is by us.

In Shakespeare’s time, Savory was a familiar herb, for we find it mentioned, together with the mints, marjoram and lavender, in The Winter’s Tale.

In ancient days, the Savorys were supposed to belong to the Satyrs, hence the name Satureia. Culpepper says:
‘Mercury claims dominion over this herb. Keep it dry by you all the year, if you love yourself and your ease, and it is a hundred pounds to a penny if you do not.’
He considered Summer Savory better than Winter Savory for drying to make conserves and syrups.
John Josselyn, one of the early settlers in America, gives a list of plants introduced there by the English colonists to remind them of the gardens they had left behind. Winter and Summer Savory are two of those mentioned.

Description: This is a compact, bushy annual, growing to 18 inches tall. The 1-inch long leaves are aromatic and become tinged reddish purple in late summer. White to pink flowers are borne in whorls in leaf axils from mid summer to frost. This herb self sows.


Summer Savory is a hardy, pubescent annual, with slender erect stems about a foot high. It flowers in July, having small, pale lilac labiate flowers, axillary, on short pedicels, the common peduncle sometimes three-flowered. The leaves, about 1/2 inch long, are entire, oblong-linear, acute, shortly narrowed at the base into petioles, often fascicled. The hairs on the stem are short and decurved.

Summer savory prefers a rich, well-drained soil and full sun. It is easily grown from seed, but plants can also be purchased. Space the plants 8 to 10 inches apart. They tend to become top-heavy; therefore, you should stake or brack them. Harvest the tops at any time you prefer, and dry them in a warm place.

Summer Savory is raised from seeds, sown early in April, in shallow drills, 9 inches or a foot apart. Select a sunny situation and thin out the seedlings, when large enough, to 6 inches apart in the rows. It likes a rich, light soil.

The seeds may also be sown broadcast, when they must be thinned out, the thinned out seedlings being planted in another bed at 6 inches distance from each other and well watered. The seeds are very slow in germinating.

The early spring seedlings may be first topped for fresh use in June. When the plants are in flower, they may be pulled up and dried for winter use.

Harvesting: Both varieties appreciate mulch, seaweed tea and compost. Grows well with beans.

Aftercare Instructions: Pick the leaves as required and for dried herbs August is the best month.

Edible Uses: As a pot-herb, Savory, which has a distinctive taste, though it somewhat recalls that of marjoram, is not only added to stuffings, pork pies and sausages as a wholesome seasoning, but sprigs of it, fresh, may be boiled with broad beans and green peas, in the same manner as mint. It is also boiled with dried peas in making pea-soup. For garnishing it has been used as a substitute for parsley and chervil.

This herb is usually preferred over winter savory for cooking because of its leaf texture and milder flavor. It is used to flavor meat, fish, poultry, soups, stews, stuffings, beans, potatoes, eggs, and sausage. It can also be added to sachets and potpourris. Summer savory also makes an excellent container plant.

Instructions: Use in infusion or to flavor meats and vegetables, especially beans.

Medicinal  Uses: 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.

Satureia hortensis and S. montana , Summer and Winter Savory. Used for indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, sore throat and menstrual disorders. Acts as carminative, expectorant, a warming herb, reduces flatulence. Use for all local infections and weaknesses of the body.

Properties: Anti-parasitic, anti-infectious, anti-fungal. General stimulant.

Culpepper tells us that:
‘The juice dropped into the eyes removes dimness of sight if it proceed from thin humours distilled from the brain. The juice heated with oil of Roses and dropped in the ears removes noise and singing and deafness: outwardly applied with wheat flour, it gives ease to them.’
He says:
‘Keep it dry, make conserves and syrups of it for your use; for which purpose the Summer kind is best. This kind is both hotter and drier than the Winter kind…. It expels tough phlegm from the chest and lungs, quickens the dull spirits in the lethargy, if the juice be snuffed up the nose; dropped into the eyes it clears them of thin cold humours proceeding from the brain . . . outwardly applied with wheat flour as a poultice, it eases sciatica and palsied members.’
Both the old authorities and modern gardeners agree that a sprig of either of the Savorys rubbed on wasp and bee stings gives instant relief.]

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

James C. Schmidt Department of Horticulture Michigan State University