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Satureja. (From Satureia, name used by Pliny.) Labiatae. Some 30 species of annual herbs or perennial subshrubs to 30cm. Leaves linear to cuneate, entire, subsessile. Inflorescence loose, cymose or spicate with axillary whorls of sessile flowers subtended by floral leaves, bracts and bracteoles; calyx actinomorphic with equal teeth to sublabiate with 3 upper teeth shorter and 2 lower longer, tube straight, 10-13-veined; corolla bilabiate, white or mauve, tube straight, lower lip trilobed; stamens 4. Fruit 4 nutlets. Temperate amd warm temperate N hemisphere. Z8.


Predominately low-growing aromatic shrubs, but the genus also includes the annual Satureja hortensis, summer savory. They are valued for their fragrant foliage and spikes of flowers, which are particularly attractive to honeybees and bumblebees. The summer and winter savories, amongst the most fragrant of herbs, are usually grown in the herb garden, but most of the perennial species are suitable for edging in the herbaceous border, or for hot, dry and sunny situations in the rock garden or terrace. The creeping Satureja spicigera is especially well suited to these conditions. They will withstand a wide range of soil conditions provided that drainage is good; Satureja hortensis prefers alkaline soils. They will not tolerate soils that remain damp, and do not thrive in shade. Most are hardy to -10ºC; Satureja thymbra suffers damage at temperatures below freezing, but may be treated as an annual. Grow Satureja hortensis from seed sown in situ in spring, or in autumn in mild climates, in a sunny open position and in well-drained soil. Germination may take several weeks; thin to 15cm. As with perennial species, tip back in late spring to encourage new growth. For winter supplies, grow in pots in the glasshouse with a minimum temperature of 7-10ºC. Propagate perennials by division in spring, or from softwood cuttings in summer.

Satureja hortensis   

SUMMER SAVORY. Aromatic, puberulent, shrubby annual to 25cm. Leaves 30 x 4mm, linear to linear-lanceolate, obtuse, petiolate. Flowers 2-5 per whorl, pedicels short, distant; bract longer than whorls; calyx campanulate to 4mm, puberulent, teeth slightly unequal, upper as long as tube, lower longer; corolla to 7mm, white or pink. Autumn. SE Europe, naturalised elsewhere.

Satureja montana   

WINTER SAVORY. Dwarf woody shrub to 50cm. Leaves linear to obovate, acute, coriaceous, subsessile, smooth to sparsely pubescent. Flowers to 14 per whorl; calyx to 7mm; corolla white to pale violet. Summer and autumn. S Europe. subspecies illyrica. Stems glabrous, whorls dense. subspecies intricata. Leaves ciliate, whorls dense. subspecies kitaibelii. Stems glabrous on two sides. ‘Nana’: habit dwarf. ‘Procumbens’: habit creeping, to 15cm high; leaves bright green. Z6.

Satureja montana is regarded to have a stronger influence on food than Satureja hortensis. Savory is popular as a flavouring with green vegetables especially beans and may also be used with lamb and particularly poultry as it delivers a subtle blend not unlike a combination of Rosemary (Rosmarinus) and Mint (Mentha). It should however be used sparingly even by experienced cooks. Summer savory Satureja hortensis is the more popular of the two choices shown here.

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