Savory is both a bold peppery herb and the description of a rich and deeply-flavored dish. As an adjective the word savory connotes something of rich and flavorful. Unsavory, on the other hand, seems always to imply morally suspect people, situations and ideas. While such situations and characters are the stuff of legends and dramas, we will leave that to the philosophers, writers and movie makers.
The herb savory has two forms, winter and summer. The winter variety is stronger and significantly more bitter. Consequently, summer savory is much more common in the kitchen. There is a rumor that the Italians were the first to cultivate the herb for culinary uses. The French were not far behind and they made savory a frequent participant in their Bouquet Garni, those cheesecloth bundles tossed into soups, stews and casseroles to wondrous effect. A handful of savory stuffed into a roasting chicken turns a commonplace dinner into a rich, special meal. Savory is a masterful addition to sautéed mushrooms and to beef, lamb, pork and seafood marinades. Even sprinkling a tablespoon across a dish of crisp green beans or roasted squash enlivens the palate. A simple omelets with minced savory is transformed.
Reputed to have originated in the Mediterranean Basin, savory was carried to the British Isles by the Romans. Centuries later British colonists took it to North America. During those centuries, it was used in both the kitchen and the dispensary. Even today savory is rubbed on insect bites to relieve the sting, especially those of bees. It is still thought to aid digestion. It has long been alleged to act as an herbal Viagra, an idea promoted by the French herbalist, Messéqué, though it is unknown whether he could confirm this from personal experience. Savory contains Thymol, an essential oil with both antiseptic and anti-fungal properties, and Carvacrol, which inhibits the growth of many bacteria. Summer savory’s feathery trailing stems and tiny lavender flowers have made it a popular hanging ornamental basket.
Though you will find savory a regular ingredient in many dishes, it doesn’t always get the attention and credit it deserves. Today recipe is Mixed Mushrooms Roasted in Savory. If you have a favorite use of this interesting underserved herb, please let us know.