There are two kinds of savory- Summer Savory or Satureia hortensis and Winter savory or Satureia montana
The Latin name for Savory, Satureia means satyr, a mythological creature half-man, half-goat with an voracious desire for sex. This mythological creature is said to have grazed in fields of savory and this association gave the herb its name. Pliny, the Elder is said to have named the herb after this creature, indicating the herb’s use as an aphrodisiac.
There is some dispute about these origins of the word Satureia. Some herbalists (http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Satu_hor.html) believe that the word may originate from the Turkish sater, Hebrew zaʾatar and Arabic az-za'tar. These are words that are used to name different aromatic herbs (mainly savory, thyme and marjoram) and also a spice mixture (sumac) containing these herbs.
Savory has an intense pepper-like flavour and was utilzed in Ancient Rome until the first lots of real pepper were imported from India. In the first century B.C., Virgil, the epic poet grew savory as food for his bees. He believed that it made their honey taste better. In the Middle Ages, savory was used as a flavouring for cakes and pies.
The flavour of savory is very much like thyme inspite of containing relatively small levels of thymol. Despite this similiarity, it is used to flavour vegetables rather than meat which is often flavoured by thyme.
Summer savory in the kitchen
Is a delicate tasting herb and its mild character flavours young tender green beans very well.
The aroma of the summer savory is reminiscent of both mint and thyme. Since the leaves of summer savory are soft and non-woody, they can be used raw . They make an excellent addition to green salads and can even be used to garnish dishes.
Savory can be steeped in vinegar to obtain a delightfully fresh tasting herb vinegar. This herb vinegar may infact be the precursor to the traditional accompaniment to roast lamb, mint sauce. The ancient Romans are supposed to have used this herb vinegar extremely often, both in the cooking process and as a condiment.
Savory also dries well.
Herbs de Provence is a mixture of dried and crumbled, marjoram, thyme, savory, rosemary, bay-leaf, basil, and if required, lavender buds, sage leaves and fennel seeds. It is used as a flavouring in mediterranean stews, vegetable dishes and pizza toppings. It is especially important as a rub for meats, poultry, and fish that are going to be roasted.
Khmeli Suneli is a pale golden spice and herb mix used to flavour traditional dishes like the Georgian soup and stew kharchio. It comprises dried marjoram, dried dill, dried summer savory, dried mint, dried parsley, ground coriander,dried fenugreek leaves,dried ground marigold petals, ground black pepper, ground fenugreek seeds, and crushed bay leaves.
Winter savory in the kitchen
Winter savory is coarser in flavour, character, and appearence than summer savory. While Summer savory is excellent with fresh beans, the more robust and hearty flavour of winter savory enhances dried beans and lentils.
Since the leaves of the winter Savory are coarse and tough, they are most suited to dishes that require extended cooking, like stews. They can also be added to the waterin which dried beans are cooked and softened to provide enough heat,moisture and cooking time to release their flavouring oil as well as soften the leaves to make them easy to eat.
Winter savory is often used to flavour stuffing and to flavour vegetables, poultry, and sausages. The commercial preparation of salami often uses the herb.
Savory can be used to flavour salt-free diets since the strong flavour makes food more appealing.
early therapeutic uses included tossing branches of the herb on the fire to create an aromatic disinfectant and fumigate areas.
Infusions of Savory are used as digestive tonics and as antiseptics. The antiseptic action is due to the presence of certain volatile oils like carvacol and p-cymene. Since it contains tannins, it also acts as an astringent.
Anyone who has eaten dried beans and legumes will know that they cause a certain amount of flatulence. Since savory is an anti-flatulent, its addition of the herb to bean dishes can easily be explained.
The most common medicinal use of savory is to treat gastro-enteritis.
It is also reputed to be an aphrodisiac.
Because of its pungent oils, sage is commonly used in toothpaste and soaps. Winter savory was used as a hedging plant in knot gardens of the Tudor era..
Most californians have heard of Yerba Buena, which is the original name for the city of San Francisco. Few however realize that the translation of this word, the "good herb" is actually a reference to a variety of savory.The original settlers in the area drank an infusion of the herb for good health, which gave it its name." http://www.sallys-place.com/food/columns/gilbert/savory.htm
The Book of Ingredients: Philip Dowell and Adrian Bailey; Penguin/ Mermaid Books 1993
The Complete Book of Herbs; A practical guide to growing and using herbs: Lesley Bremness: Dorling Kindersley 1988
--Radhikab70 02:57, 3 August 2007 (EDT)