Tuesday, October 2, 2012

It's Time for Savory Herbs

Day 226
The Daily DuBrule

With the official arrival of the fall season, my mind turns to soups, stews, and roasted meats and vegetables. I have always grown sage and rosemary in my garden. The sage is a great perennial; the thyme comes and goes with the years. Four years ago I decided to give winter savory a try. I don't know what made me try this herb as I had never had any experience with it. I think I was curious and it was neat and tidy looking. Well, the English thyme planted next to it is long gone. The two plants of winter savory (Satureua montana) are not only thriving, they are one of the prettiest little ground covers I now grow on the hot, sunny south side of my garage.

I brought some with me on a weekend trip with a bunch of girlfriends. My friend Suzanne was cooking a turkey and she was intrigued. I had used it on my roasted potatoes, carrots, and parsnips with great success. It turned out to be a fabulous addition to her homemade stuffing mix. Yesterday I roasted a chicken. I am basically a peasant cook. I buy (or harvest) a few ingredients and then I play, using my instincts. I rubbed the chicken with olive oil and then laid on the winter savory, sage, and rosemary. I sprinkled it with sea salt and cracked pepper. Then I squeezed on the juice of half of a lemon and added lemon rind slivers. Another spritz with olive oil and into the oven it went. 

A half hour later I added my freshly dug 'Yellow Finn' potatoes. I sprinkled them with olive oil and salt and added some more savory. When the dish finally came out of the oven and was served, I have to say my husband was quite impressed. We even had a side dish of yellow zucchini and the last of the tomatoes, tossed with fresh parsley and, you guessed it, some more winter savory.

All the herb books I have referenced about this herb keep talking about annual summer savory as "the bean herb". Winter savory is much stronger and more pungent in flavor, just the ticket for this time of year when our bodies crave food and lots of it with spicy, aromatic flavors that say "pay attention to me!"

What's really unusual about this herb is that it gets tiny white flowers in late October and November. In the picture below you can see how I have paired it with bearded irises and Oenothera macrocarpa, the all summer blooming evening primrose that hugs the ground. They work really well together. 

The lesson here is to keep experimenting with your food. Expand beyond your everyday boundaries and see what you can discover. Savory is billed as a salt substitute. Well, so are most of the traditional fall and winter herbs if you ask me. My process is to cook with an herb, study it's complexity, and gradually learn about it and learn how to use it. It's a lifelong exploration that is very satisfying in every way.

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