Wild and Weedy Apothecary

If you saw a book with the above title, would you pick it up and look at it?

Well… I did and now I have it here with me.

Here’s how I acquired the book- I attended the Texas Renaissance Festival with my sister-in-law earlier this month. One of our favorite shops is Creative Life Booksellers, not too far inside the front gate. The shop is filled with books, calenders, coloring books, cards, book marks, tarot cards and more on subjects as varied as dragons, faeries, pirates, Celtic history, the Renaissance and, of course, herbs.

The herb book selection is small, but there are always books I don’t have, and such is the case with The Wild and Weedy Apothecary by Doreen Shababy.

Book Cover

The book contains “recipes” for healing uses of herbs, simple teas, food recipes using herbs and a lot about harvesting and using herbs found in your own area. Then, there is an encyclopedic listing of herbs with remedies and recipes for each listing. For instance, under A, you will find the following– Alliums, Anise, Apple, Aromatherapy and Aunt Carols’s Manicotti– each with a recipe or useful commentary

The aspect of this book I like most, besides the content itself, is the tone. It’s friendly and helpful rather than pedantic or authoritative. It feels like you’re sitting at the kitchen table with Doreen over a cup of herb tea, discussing the herbs you’ve used, have growing in your yard or nearby outdoor area and herbs you’re interested in but have yet to grow or try. There’s no feeling of having to rush through this book. The information is easy to access and to use. It’s one to keep handy and think of when you’re feeling a cold coming on, flu-like symptoms, have irritating bug bites or one of your kids has a sore throat.

The recipes for food are for wholesome dishes with easy to find ingredients- or with ingredients right out of your own garden. There’s lots of family history tied up in food and recipes in general, and Ms. Shababy generously shares some of her family with us.

All in all, I consider this book a great find. I’ve been slowly going through it skipping from section to section as I think of herbs to look up or recipes to try.

If you’re into reading blogs, Ms. Shababy has one here.

One more book that is a little unusual that captures my imagination is an Almanac, as it follows the Calendar, rather than an alphabetical pattern. It is by Susan Wittig Albert, author of the China Bayles herbal-infused mystery series set in a fictitious Texas Hill Country town called Pecan Springs.

Book CoverThe book is called China Bayles Book of Days.

Each day of the year has a discussion of a particular herb, usually with a recipe or two to accompany it, often with gardening advice. There is a wealth of information in this book. You can read it year after year as the entries follow the calander and thus, the seasons, rather than any particular year.

There are myriad herb books that have been published, from Culpepper’s Herbal published in 1649, to the many colorful books of the present. Some are herb growing guides, some are food recipe books using herbs, some are strictly medicinal, some are about crafting with herbs, while many are a combination of the varied aspects of the world of herbs. Whichever is your choice, there are books to help you learn more and deepen your knowledge and appreciation of this vast world. Whatever your interest in herbs, it is all rooted in the plants, the soil, the natural world around us.

I hope you’re enjoying the holidays with family and friends.

CELEBRATE THE SEASON!

green line

QUOTE FOR THE MONTH
C.S. Lewis said “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

Savory Varieties

 

Here is a pretty extensive description of the many types of Savory.

I’ve included some recipes as well as growing tips.

Summer Savory

 

  • SUMMER SAVORY
  • Satureja hortensis
  • Annual
  • USDA Zones- all zones as a warm season annual
  • Native to Mediterranean.
  • Soil- average garden soil

Here in the U.S., the best known Savory is Summer Savory, an annual with a piquant flavor somewhat reminiscent of thyme. It is easy to find seed for Summer Savory, not as easy to find plants, in my experience.

You can direct seed or grow as transplants. Plants can be placed as close as 6 inches apart. Here in Texas, it has a short season for growing due to our heat, so it’s best to grow a few plants and harvest often for drying. I’ve found the plant gets pretty leggy if it’s not harvested often. It dries well, or you can simply freeze sprigs for later use in cooking. For use in uncooked dishes, salads, etc., fresh or dried works well.

You can buy seed for Summer Savory from The Herb Cottage here.

Green Bean Salad with Gruyere Cheese and Summer Savory

  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onions
  • 1 lb green beans, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 t finely minced fresh marjoram
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 1 T finely minced fresh summer savory
  • 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

Coarsely cut onion slices. Steam beans until crisp/tender, 3 to 5 minutes. While still hot, place in a medium-size bowl, and add all ingredients except cheese. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or longer, mixing occasionally.
When ready to serve, transfer to a serving dish, and sprinkle with cheese.

(The Herb & spice Cookbook: A Seasoning Celebration by Sheryl & Mel London , Rodale Press 1986)


 

Winter Savory

 

  • WINTER SAVORY
  • Satureja montana
  • Perennial
  • USDA Zones 5-11
  • Native to Mediterranean
  • Soil- Average, well-draining
  • Sun- Full sun to part shadeImage courtesy of Mountain Valley Growers.

Winter Savory grows to about 12 inches in height and can be pruned to shape. The best parts for culinary use are new shoots from older woodier stems or from the roots as they emerge. Woody stems can produce tough and less tasty leaves. Although the leaves have a strong, sImagey flavor, they do not hold up well to long cooking, so should be added toward the end of the cooking time. It is very versatile in the kitchen and mixes well with most savory herbs such as bay, rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil.

Tiny white flowers are produced throughout the warm weather and are attractive to honey bees. As with many of the plants in the Genus Satureja, this plant is not attractive to deer.

Savory Herbal Marinade (featuring fresh herbs from your garden)
For use on Meat or Game:

  • 21/2 Cups Red Wine
  • 3/4  Cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Small Onion or Several Shallots, chopped
  • 2 Carrots, diced
  • 1 Stalk Celery, chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, sliced
  • 2 Fresh Bay Leaves, broken into pieces
  • 2 Teaspoons each Fresh Thyme, Oregano and Winter Savory, coarsely chopped
  • Salt

Allow meat to marinate overnight or about 12 hours.
To use on Chicken, exchange the red wine for white wine and the red wine vinegar for white wine vinegar. Change the herbs to French Tarragon, Lemon Thyme or Rosemary or any combination of those. For Pork, add fresh mint to the White Wine Marinade.
For Fish, use lemon juice and the Winter Savory chopped fine.

Recipe courtesy of Mountain Valley Growers. On this page, you’ll find more recipes, too!

From the International Herb Association comes this recipe for traditional Herbes de Provence:

HERBES DE PROVENCE BLEND

Makes 1/2 cup

  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons dried marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons dried savory
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers

Combine all ingredients in a blender process on a low to medium setting for about 10 seconds or until the lavender has been broken down into very small pieces. Store in an airtight container.


  • LEMON SAVORY
  • Satureja biflora
  • Annual- all zones as a warm season annual or very tender perennial
  • USDA Zones 11+
  • Native to East Africa
  • Soil- rich, well-drained
  • Sun- full sun

Lemon SavoryI first discovered this plant while browsing a seed catalog. Having a great affinity to lemon-flavored herbs, I ordered seed and grew it out. Wow! What a great lemony flavor! It is considered a tender perennial, so if you grow it and like it, grow some in a pot to keep from freezing. Keep the soil fairly dry in the pot for indoor growing. Outdoors, harvest often, so the plant stays nice and compact. The leaves do dry well and keep their lemon fragrance and flavor.

I buy mine from The Thyme Garden.


  • CREEPING SAVORY
  • Satureja sImageigera
  • Perennial
  • USDA Zones 7-9
  • Native to West Asia, the Caucuses
  • Soil- well-drained, rocky, alkaline
  • Sun- full sun
Creeping Savory.  Image courtesy of Stephen Foster
Creeping Savory.
Image courtesy of Stephen Foster

From West Asia, the Caucuses, so it is very hardy in cold climates with alkaline soil that can provide good drainage. Likewise it can tolerate hot, dry conditions. Grown in the Southern U.S. under high humidity, it needs very good drainage and lots of sun.

Like Winter Savory, the flavor is peppery and strong when used fresh. The plant is harvested when it is flowering in summer and can be used fresh or dried. An ointment made from the leaves has been used toImageally to relieve arthritis.

As with many of the plants in the Genus Satureja, this plant is not attractive to deer.


  • YERBA BUENA or THE GOOD HERB
  • Satureja douglasii
  • Perennial
  • USDA Zones 7-10
  • Native to West Coast U.S., eastward to Idaho and Montana
  • Soil- moist, well-drained
  • Sun- mostly shade
Yerba Buena Picture courtesy of Annie's Annuals
Yerba Buena
Picture courtesy of Annie’s Annuals

Unlike many others in the Genus Satureja, Yerba Buena likes moisture and shade. It tolerates clay soils and sandy soils. Under a tree in dense shade, it creates a flat, evergreen groundcover.

It can grow up to 2 feet tall by 6 feet across. It is not considered invasive, however, because it does not spread by rhizomes or underground stems like mint, but roots along the stems.

It is perfect for a hanging pot or trailing down a shady slope or wall. It is drought tolerant, but in very hot areas, summer water will be necessary.

The leaves are quite fragrant and make a healthy and tasty mint-like tea. It has been used relief of indigestion, insomnia, colds. fevers, arthritic pain and toothache.

Deer resistant, too.


  • Jamaican Mint Bush
    Jamaican Mint Bush Image Courtesy of Top Tropica

    JAMAICAN MINT BUSH

  • Satureja viminea
  • Perennial
  • USDA Zones 10+
  • Native to Caribbean
  • Soil- average, well-drained
  • Sun- full sun to part shade, can do well indoors with bright light.

 

Jamaican Mint Bush can grow to be a large shrub or small tree in its native areas. In areas where it is not hardy- most of the U.S., for instance- it will stay smaller and do quite well as a potted plant. Grow outdoors in summer and bring indoors for the cold season. Indoors give it bright light and good drainage. Do not overwater.

It is well worth finding this plant and growing it. The aroma is minty/savory and very piquant. A traditional use for the leaves is to make a bath and body wash. There is now a commercial product called Kama Sutra Luxury Mint Tree Bath Gel and Body Wash. According to the literature, “A refreshing bathing gel that cools and tingles. Legend says that the mint plant grows into a tree only after a great deal of time and care, the same attention we’ve paid to the process of creating Mint Tree Bathing Gel. Blended from pure invigorating mint, ten pure vegetable oils and wheat germ rich Vitamin E, this refreshing cleanser cools, tingles, and transforms a shower or bath into a keenly sensual experience.”

You can make your own body wash from the leaves by making an infusion with 4 cups boiling water and 1 cup of fresh leaves. Let sit about 24 hours. Strain. Add the juice of of 1 lemon and 1 to 2 tablespoons of a bath gel, if desired. Use as a body wash or add to a warm bath.


 

  • PINK SAVORY, THYME LEAVED SAVORY

    Pink Savory Picture courtesy of Mountain Valley Growers
    Pink Savory
    Picture courtesy of Mountain Valley Growers
  • Perennial
  • USDA Zones 7-10
  • Native to the Mediterranean
  • Soil- alkaline, well-draining, rocky
  • Sun- full sun, a little shade OK

Pink Savory grows in warm, dry locations with alkaline soil with good drainage. It has a flavor similar to Winter Savory, with overtones of oregano and thyme. It can be used in any recipe calling for savory.
It flowers in early to mid summer, with pink flowers that also attract honey bees. The flowers are edible and are good as an edible garnish or in a herbed vinegar.

This plant is sometimes incorrectly referred to as Zatar, which is actually a blend of herbs. Pink Savory can be a component of Zatar, which often also contains oregano and thyme.


  • PYGMY SAVORY, CRETE MOUNTAIN SAVORY

    Pygmy Savory Image courtesy of West-Crete
    Pygmy Savory
    Image courtesy of West-Crete
  • Satureja spinosa
  • Perennial
  • Hardy to -10 degrees F
  • Native tot he southern Aegean
  • Soil- alkaline, well-draining
  • Sun- full sun

 

This little Savory grows to only about 6 inches tall in the mountains from 4,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level. It is very hardy to cold and likes a dry, warm, rocky location. It is used as a culinary and medicinal herb, as with the other Savories. The flowers are much prized as nectar for honey-making bees.

The plant grows well in Alpine Gardens, on walls and in ceramic or clay pots. In hot, humid areas, give it excellent drainage and little water.


  • LIMESTONE SAVORY, ARKANSAS MINT

    Limestone Savory Picture Courtesy of North American Native Plant Society
    Limestone Savory
    Picture Courtesy of North American Native Plant Society
  • Satureja arkansana, Calamintha arkansana
  • Perennial
  • Hardy to -10 deg. F
  • Native to United States
  • Soil- average soil, likes moisture with good drainage
  • Sun- full sun

 

 

Another native to the U.S., this species is very common in the Ozarks of Missouri. It grows in shady, moist areas, but will do well in a sunny spot with deep soil and good moisture. It is often smelled before it is seen due to its low growing habit. The scent is very strong and can be detected from a distance of up to 10 feet in some cases. It has purple/pink flowers in the summer. The leaves turn red in the fall. It can flower from Spring to Fall.

The flavor is more minty than the peppery savory flavor of some of the other Savories. Oddly, the more it is watered, the stronger its scent. It still needs good drainage, however, to keep the roots from rotting.


And there you have more information on the Genus Satureja than you thought possible or you ever wanted!

I was amazed at how many species comprised this Genus. I find it fascinating to find members of the same Genus growing around the world, all with similar uses, flavors and aromas. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of the Genus Satureja with me, and will try some of these plants in your own garden.

 

Savory with Oregano at Mountain Valley GrowersSmall Winter Savory growing with 2 larger Syrian Oregano plants at Mountain Valley Growers.

 

QUOTE FOR THE MONTH

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.
-Emily Post, author and columnist (1872-1960)

Savory- Herb of the Year, 2015

Newsletter from January 2015

Winter Savory

Winter Savory

Every year has a designated herb, named by the International Herb Association. This year, the designated herb is Savory, a very hardy perennial or short lived annual, depending on the variety. In fact, there are lots of herbs in the Savory, or Satureja genus.

Satureja means “Savory” and once you’ve tasted these herbs and used them, you will savor their flavor and the dishes you create with them. Most varieties are from the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, although there is at least one from South Africa, one from the Caribbean and one from Iran and the surrounding area. The flavor is somewhat spicy as well as “savory”, and was actually classified as a spice rather than an herb by the early Romans. It does have a bite to it and is used to flavor many various foods.

Summer and Winter Savory were used by the Greeks and Romans to spice up their food. In Rome, a sauce was made with vinegar and Summer Savory, similar to a modern Mint Sauce. All beans and peas are enhanced by the use of Savory and it can be added to sausage, stuffings and herb mixtures.

Summer Savory, an annual, can be easily harvested and dried for later use. Winter Savory, a perennial in much of the U.S., can also be dried and used that way. Winter Savory makes a small attractive evergreen bush where it is hardy and takes well to pruning for shape.
Winter SavoryIt is very tolerant of extreme heat, as well.

Winter Savory

Summer Savory

Summer Savory seems less tolerant of our Texas heat and I’ve found it to be a short lived annual, once Summer really sets in. But, it grows quickly, and can produce a lot of material to harvest in just a couple of months.

Continue reading “Savory- Herb of the Year, 2015”