Summer Savory: Flavor Profile
In the Eastern Mediterranean, summer savory is a favorite herb, revered for its peppery, herbal flavor and sweet pine aroma. Popular in Romanian cuisine, the herb comes from the mint family, and is often compared to thyme and marjoram. Yet, summer savory has a taste of its own – herbal and minty with a tinge of peppery heat. The spice pairs well with cumin, basil, bay leaf and oregano, and it can liven up nearly any savory dish, from stews and chowders, to roasted veggies.
Cooking with Summer Savory
Dried summer savory looks like rosemary, with green leaves and sprigs, and it’s used all over the world. In Atlantic Canada, summer savory is widely used as a substitute for sage. You’ll find it in stuffing recipes, with pork, and in sauces there. And in the Mediterranean, summer savory is found in numerous spice blends, as well as in savory soups, sauces and herbal rubs. A few common uses for summer savory include:
- Chowders and Stews – The burst of flavor the herb provides helps to balance robust stews and soups.
- Sauces – Savory herb melds with citrus and vinegar in salad dressings.
- Herb Blends – Summer savory is found in popular French blends like Herbes de Provence, Fines Herbes and Bonquet Garni. The herb’s natural mint-like flavor is the perfect complement for tamer green leafy herbs.
- Veggies and Meats – Whether you’re roasting potatoes or pork, a pinch of dried summer savory adds piney aroma and pungent pepper flavor. In Romanian cuisine, it’s used in cabbage and potato dishes.
- Rubs – With olive oil and your favorite green herbs, summer savory makes a great herbal rub for meats.
- Bean Dishes – In Balkan cooking, the herb is commonly paired with beans and bean salads.
Summer Savory: A Quick History
Summer savory originates in the Mediterranean, and it’s been used on the continent for more than 2,000 years. The Romans, for example, used savory herb before pepper was introduced from India.
Yet, it was also a favorite medicinal herb of the Romans. Pliny the Elder, the Roman healer, believed the herb to be an aphrodisiac. In fact, that’s where the herb got its name. Savory comes from “satyr,” a mythical creature with an insatiable sexual appetite.
The Romans also are credited with distributing the herb throughout England. Roman soldiers introduced the herb in England, Ireland and the Netherlands. And savory quickly became a favorite seasoning throughout Europe.
Savory spice predates the introduction of pepper and salt. And it waned in popularity following the introduction of new spices from Asia.
Today, it remains widely used in its native lands. The cuisines of Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria all utilize the herb frequently. In fact, in Bulgaria, it’s one of four common table condiments, along with salt, sweet red pepper and ground roast corn.
Summer savory (Satureja hortensis) is a member of the mint family. And it is one of the most well-known savory herbs. The plant is closely related to winter savory. Yet, the herbs have distinctive tastes; the summer variety being milder and more fragrant. In fact, summer savory is preferred in sausage making due to its sweeter, less bitter flavors.
The savory plant grows to about 1-2 feet in height and produces a light purple flower, and it resembles rosemary, with green sprigs shooting out from dull green stems. In northern climates, summer savory blooms from July to November.
Summer savory is an annual, while winter savory is a perennial. That’s where it gets the “summer” distinction.
About Our Summer Savory
Summer savory continues to be produced widely in the Balkans, including Albania and Romania. Our summer savory is sourced from a small growing collective in Albania. Albanian-grown summer savory has a vibrant, peppery flavor, with a clean mint-like finish.