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Winter Savory

( Originally Published 1933 )


Labiatae Perennial

The winter savory, also called Calamintha montana, Lam., is native to Europe and North Africa, is hardy, and one of the most decorative plants in the herb garden with its little white florets scattered amongst the bright green leaves as if it had just begun to snow. It smells pleasantly of resin and spice. The plant grows to two feet across and about twelve inches high.

Root. The root is white, twisted, and firmly attached to the soil, and sends up stems as it pushes its way along.

Stem. The stems are woody, brown on the lower portions, but light green above and hairy.

Leaf. The leaves are evergreen, smooth, dark green, shiny, and covered with tiny glands. They are half an inch long, very narrow and pointed at the tip, about one-sixteenth of an inch across; the margins are hairy, entire, and the central rib is prominent. The leaf turns up on either side of this midrib. They stand out, straight up from the stems, and are arranged in opposite pairs, each pair at right angles to the one above it with a pair of tiny leaflets in the axils of each leaf. The leaves taste sharp and spicy when fresh.

Flower. The flowers begin to open in July, are white with a bit of pink, and are one-eighth of an inch across, and three or more of them rise on the tiny stem from the leaf axils, only one in each cluster opening at a time. From a distance it looks as if the blossoms had been strewn over the plant.

Seed. The seeds are brown, triangular, ovoid, finely shagreened, and their germinating power lasts three years.

Variety. The species of savory are many; Bailey says one hundred and thirty.


Palladius mentions Satureia hortensis in the third century, and Turner in 1561. Ibn Baithar mentions Satureia capitata and says Satureia hortensis was grown in Andalusia and Egypt. Josselyn mentions winter and summer savory. Claytonius, "Flora Virginica," 1762, mentions Satureia foliis ovatis serratis.

It is said to be an aphrodisiac.


The leaves and young shoots are delicious as a condiment in foods, and in several liqueurs. They stay green all winter, although the leaves are not nearly as pungent as they are in summer.


The plant is very hardy and comes readily from seed, which can be sown out-of-doors in May in a well-prepared seed bed, or indoors in a frame and later trans-planted. This transplanting seemed to act, for me, as a stimulus to the plant's growth. It is said to like a fairly high altitude. Vilmorin says, to encourage a vigorous supply of young shoots cut the stems down in spring to four inches above the ground. I have to do this to keep the plant from taking up too much space, for it spreads considerably.

Winter savory is a decorative plant, charming as a border or edging. It can be increased by divisions, or by slips planted in sandy soil. The seed of winter savory is sold at American seed houses.

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