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Herb Garden
Published October 18, 2022 by Laura Christine

How to Grow Winter Savory in an Organic Herb Garden

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herb garden
herbs
how to grow
how to infuse herbs
benefits of winter savory

What Is Winter Savory?

Winter savory is one of the oldest recorded herbs and was first introduced to Northern Europe by the Ancient Romans. This hardy plant is native to the warm temperate regions of Europe, Mediterranea, and Africa. Today, you can find winter savory growing wild all over Great Britain on old walls, hillsides, dry banks, and rocks. 

This semi-evergreen perennial is a member of the Lamiaceae family, a group of aromatic flowering plants commonly known as the mint family. In contrast to regular mints, winter savory will not take over your garden!

Winter Savory Taste

Winter savory is one of those herbs that has an aroma and taste that crosses a spectrum of different flavors. It has been described as being reminiscent of the winter season because of its hints of sage and pine. It has also been described as having a spicy and pepper-like taste with notes of marjoram, thyme, and mint. In my own experience, I would describe winter savory as having an earthy thyme-like flavor and a strong oregano-like aroma.

No matter the spectrum, this herb makes a great culinary addition and has various other uses. 

what is winter savory herb

Winter Savory vs Summer Savory

Winter savory and summer savory belong to the same genus, or biological classification, called Satureja, which falls under the mint (Lamiaceae) family. Both herbs offer versatility to the culinary world and are used in salads, soups, sauces, stuffings, fish, poultry, or meat dishes. They are a prized ingredient when it comes to bean dishes! Medicinally, both winter and summer savory have mild antiseptic properties and are good for digestion, particularly calming your digestion down. 

Summer savory (Satureja hortensis) is a small annual shrub that grows well in pots or containers in warmer areas (zones 5 to 9). A popular summer herb that is easy to germinate, it has slender green-grayish leaves, and when it blooms, it produces white or pink two-petal flowers. In terms of taste, summer savory has a sweet and mild taste that's a cross between thyme and sage, with a dash of pepper. Summer savory has astringent and antiseptic properties that have been used in facial steams or baths for oily skin and as an antiseptic gargle. In addition, it can be found in teas, tinctures, and oils. 

Winter savory (Satureja montana) is a perennial that is a dwarf-like bush with glossy, pointy, dark green leaves. It produces blooms in a pale lavender or pale pink-whitish flowers. Winter savory is cold hardy down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (if mulched, like in the picture above), and it grows in zones 6 through 11. Winter savory's flavor is stronger and sharper than the summer variety. Some describe it as tasting like a slightly tangy, peppery version of marjoram with hints of pine. 

Uses for Winter Savory

Winter savory is a great herb to not only use in cooking but medicinally and everywhere in between! 

Winter Savory Herbal Infusions

Winter savory has traditionally been used in infusions. It can be infused in water as well as in oil or vinegar. 

The process of infusing herbs is quite simple. The herbs are steeped (soaked) in a liquid until the liquid absorbs the flavor and oils of the herb, then the liquid is consumed. 

To infuse winter savory in oil

Pick an oil and follow the steps below. I like to use extra virgin olive oil.

  • Take 1 to 2 sprigs of winter savory (3-4" in length) and place in a pot with the oil.
  • Let the oil and the herbs steep in the oil at medium to medium high (300° to 350°) heat for 5 to 10 minutes (be careful not to let them fry or turn brown or get crispy!). The idea is to get the flavor, essence, and aroma out of the herbs and into the oil.
  • Once you smell the winter savory, that's a good time to pull it off the stove.
  • Put your herbs and oil into a bottle and let cool.
  • You can choose to leave the herbs out or keep them in the bottle to make it look pretty! You can store your winter savory infused oil on the shelf for up to 30 days or in the refrigerator for 90 days. 

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To infuse winter savory in vinegar

There are two simple ways to infuse winter savory in vinegar.

One is to use dried winter savory. If this is the case, use 3 teaspoons of dried winter savory to 2 cups of vinegar. I like to use dried winter savory with white wine vinegar.

  • Put your vinegar in a pot and heat to just below boiling. This process inhibits any growth of pathogens that can survive in an acidic environment.
  • Next, in order to break apart the plant wall, either use a grinder or a mortar and pestle to break up the dried winter savory.
  • Once the winter savory is broken up, put it into a jar (pint) with the hot vinegar. Because vinegar is involved, you will need to use non-reactive lids because the acid from the vinegar will break down and affect the metal.
  • Let the infusion cool, seal the jar tightly, and place in a cool and dark place.
  • Every day, shake your jar to continue helping the herbs to infuse into the vinegar.
  • I let this steep for about a month, then I strain it through cotton muslin. 

The second way to infuse winter savory in vinegar is to use fresh sprigs. The directions are basically the same with the exception of adding 3 to 4 sprigs of fresh winter savory to 2 cups of white wine vinegar. 

Storage of infused vinegars

It is super important to always keep your bottles tightly sealed to minimize the risk of spoilage. You can store your vinegars in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 months or in a cool dark place (65°F or below) for up to 3 months. Always refrigerate your vinegars after opening. If you notice any signs of mold or fermentation (i.e., cloudiness, sliminess, or bubbling), throw it away without tasting it. Test your vinegar around 6 months (if there are no spoilage signs) to make sure the flavor is still acceptable. 

herbs infusing oils

Winter Savory in Cooking

Winter savory's versatility is definitely found in cooking. Often winter savory is paired with strong-tasting meats such as venison and lamb. It goes great in vinaigrettes for salad or as a complement to celery, rosemary, and fennel in stuffing; it's a great herb to add to thyme and basil in tomato sauce, and it's been said to tame oily fish in mackerel and eel recipes! 

Medicinal Use of Winter Savory 

All parts of winter savory have been used medicinally in teas, tinctures, oils, and vinegars. Some examples include infused oils being used as an aphrodisiac and an anti-fungal by suppressing the growth of fungus and prevention of fungal infections (i.e., ringworm). Winter savory tea is believed to help with digestive problems including diarrhea, flatulence, and indigestion. 

Adverse effects may occur on using winter savory oil. It severely affects pregnancy and it could lead to skin irritation in individuals who have sensitive skin.

***Consult with your medical provider before using this herb. 

winter savory growing
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Winter Savory Growing Guide

How to Plant Winter Savory Herb

You can plant winter savory from winter savory seeds or from stem cuttings.

Growing Winter Savory from Seeds 

You can sow winter savory indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost. Sow your seeds lightly on top of a starter soil mix. Winter savory seeds need light to germinate, so don't cover them with soil. Keep the soil moist but not wet.

You should see them sprouting in 10 to 14 days.

Transplant your seedlings to a container or your kitchen garden when they have at least four sets of true leaves and the risk of frost is gone. You can also direct sow winter savory seeds after the risk of frost is gone. Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart.

Can You Grow Winter Savory from Cuttings?

Yes, indeed you can grow winter savory from cuttings! The best time to do this is in the spring or fall. Take a 4- to 6-inch cutting and strip the leaves from the bottom 2 inches. Dip the cut ends in a powdered root hormone and place them either in small pots of wet sand or a starter mix amended with 1/3 sand.

Roots should form in 4 to 6 weeks. At that point, you can transplant into a larger container or into your kitchen garden.

Winter Savory Companion Plants

Winter savory can be planted with basically any plant. It is an herb known to attract pollinators so plant by your kitchen gardens! In addition, winter savory is a great companion in the vegetable garden: If you plant it next to beans, it will repel bean weevils. In the rose garden, winter savory repels aphids and discourages the growth of mildew.

How to Care for Winter Savory Plant

Winter savory growing is fairly simple because it is generally a low-maintenance plant. It needs well-drained soil and full sun to grow. Winter savory is a light feeder and doesn't require much fertilization. Giving your plant a micronutrient boost (I use organic fish emulsion) two to three times during the growing season is all that winter savory needs.

Should You Let Winter Savory Flower?

Winter savory leaves are at their best before they flower. After you have used the leaves, you can then let the plant bloom. Winter savory flowers are great at attracting pollinators for the kitchen garden.

winter savory uses

How to Harvest Winter Savory

The best time to harvest winter savory is in the morning when the essential oils in the plant are the most potent.

How to Store Winter Savory

You can store winter savory fresh, dried, or in the freezer. Fresh winter savory stores in the refrigerator for up to two weeks if wrapped in a damp paper towel. Dried savory can keep its flavor and aroma up to 4 years if you keep it in a tightly sealed container. Winter savory freezes well layered in ice cube trays, stored flat in Ziploc bags, or added to meat. 

How to Dry Winter Savory

You have several options for drying winter savory. All options work very well! You can dry winter savory by using a dehydrator, hanging bundles of stems, or by laying flat on a screen. 

how to dry winter savory

Favorite Winter Savory Recipes

You can put winter savory in many different recipes. I like to experiment with it by adding it to my herb butter. It also goes well with beans and with most meats. 

Here is a tasty chicken recipe:

Balsamic Herb Baked Chicken Thighs

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of chicken thighs
  • 3 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 5 to 9 sprigs fresh winter savory
  • 3 leaves fresh sage, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (more oil means more juice to serve) 
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt or to taste
  • lemon wedges to spritz for serving 

Instructions

In a baking dish, mix together the marinade and coat the chicken thighs. 

Marinade chicken for a few hours or overnight (8 hours). Bake thighs in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes, turning half way through. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before eating. 

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Here is a delicious side dish bean recipe that includes winter savory. 

Creamy Lemon Butter Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 rib of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 red onion (medium size), finely chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 large red chili pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • 14 ounces of canned butter beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 sprigs or winter savory
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • lemon zest from half a lemon 
  • 1 tablespoon of cream
  • 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste 

Instructions

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add onion, and sauté for a few minutes. Add celery and sauté till both onion and celery are soft. Add the peppers, butter beans, and sprigs of savory; stir together. Pour in stock and bring to a boil. 

Turn heat down to medium and let simmer for 15 minutes till there isn't much liquid left in pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat to low and add lemon zest and cream till heated through. Just before serving, stir in parmesan and squeeze in lemon juice. 

FOLLOW DR. LAURA AND LEARN MORE ABOUT KITCHEN GARDEN EXPERT

Located in the Kansas City area, Kitchen Garden Expert is a pioneer in offering gardening services that focus on design, coaching, and maintenance. They're inspiring the garden life one organic herb plant at a time!

Meet the author, Dr. Laura Christine

Dr. Laura Christine — Kitchen Garden Expert

Dr. Laura is a Gardenary-certified garden coach with a background in naturopathy and over 40 years of gardening experience.

Her love of gardening started as a child, when she and her mother would garden together and she'd experience the rush of excitement that comes with picking that first cucumber for making pickles. She's passionate about using her garden experience now to teach others about growing their own food and how gardening can impact their personal health.

Her business, Kitchen Garden Expert, helps gardeners in the Kansas City area experience the joy of growing their favorite herbs, fruits, and vegetables in an organic and sustainable kitchen garden.

Follow Kitchen Garden Expert on Instagram and Facebook to see what Laura's growing now!

Thanks to Dr. Laura for providing pictures of her winter savory plant.

How to Grow Winter Savory in an Organic Herb Garden

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