Spice of the Week – Savory

March 28, 2011 at 12:41 PM | Posted in Food, spices and herbs | 2 Comments

Savory
Satureja is a genus of aromatic plants of the family Lamiaceae, related to rosemary and thyme. There are about 30 species called savories, of which Summer savory and Winter savory are the most important in cultivation.
The primary use of savory is in cooking, and the two savories were among the strongest cooking herbs available to Europeans until world exploration and trade brought them tropical spices like black pepper. The savories have been used to enhance the flavor of food for over 2,000 years. Savory is an herb so bold and peppery in flavor that since the time of the Saxons it has come to denote not only the herb itself, but is synonymous with tasty and flavorful foods.

 

Culinary Uses

Savory’s wonderfully distinct piquancy brings an agreeable tasty element to relatively mild foods without overpowering them. The classic blend fines herbes and the traditional bunch of herbs for casseroles, bouquet garni will often contain savory. Savory complements egg dishes, whether chopped finely and added to scrambled eggs and omelets, or treated as a garnish with parsley. Beans, lentils and peas all benefit from the addition of savory in almost any situation. Its robust flavor holds up well in long, slow-cooked dishes such as soups and stews. Savory combines well with breadcrumbs for stuffings.

Most commonly used as a seasoning for green vegetables, savory’s special affinity is for beans. Use summer savory, with its more delicate flavor, for tender baby green beans, and winter savory to enhance a whole medley of dried beans and lentils. It is no coincidence that the German word for the herb is Bohenkraut, meaning bean herb, as one of the components of the herb naturally aids the digestion of these sometimes problematic legumes.

Attributed Medicinal Properties

While both varieties are used in cooking, Summer Savory has a much longer tradition of medicinal use.It has long been reputed to be a general tonic to the digestive tract and as a powerful antiseptic. Branches of savory were tossed onto fire to create an aromatic disinfectant. Even today, because of its pungent oils, it is commonly used in toothpaste and soaps. Active compounds of the savory leaf include volatile oils (carvacrol, p-cymene, alpha-thujene, alpha-pinene, beta-myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, terpinene, and thymol), and tannic acid. The carvacol and p-cymene content of this herb give it a mild antiseptic effect. The tannin content is responsible for savory’s astringent qualities, making it a popular choice in the relief of diarrhea. The herb has also been used as a gargle for sore throat. As a digestive aid, savory is used in cases of indigestion and flatulence. It is often added as a spice to dishes containing beans for this reason. The most common medicinal use of savory today is in the treatment of gastrointestinal enteritis, the inflammation of the intestinal tract. In some folk cultures, savory has been used to increase libido.

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