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What Is Summer Savory?

Herbalists sometimes prescribe summer savory to alleviate toothache pain.
Summer savory is can be used in place of table salt for enhancing the flavor of food.
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  • Written By: Melanie Smeltzer
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2014
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Summer savory is a half-hardy annual species in the mint family. These plants can grow to roughly 14 inches (35.5 cm) in height, bear a slender stem, sparse bronze-colored leaves, and tube-like flowers that grow during the summer months. These herbs, native to the Mediterranean, are enjoyed in many areas of the world for their delicate, mildly bitter flavor, which is said to be similar to thyme or dill. They are often dried and placed in a variety of dishes including pea soup.

Much like its mint relatives, the summer savory grows from a square, slender, woody stem with many branches. The leaves of this plant are usually a half-inch (1.2 cm) in length, smooth and oblong in shape, and a bronze-like red-brown in hue. Between July and September, this plant sprouts small, tube-shaped blossoms that may be light pink or lilac in color.

The summer savory herb has a long history of use in a variety of areas. One of its best-known uses is as a culinary spice. This spice is considered an important staple in Romanian cuisine, appearing in game, pork, and lentil recipes, and is used to add flavor to stuffed cabbage and pickles. In Atlantic Canada, this herb is often the main flavor of a dressing called cretonnade, and is sometimes used to replace sage in many recipes.

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Throughout the world, summer savory is used as a condiment spice. In the United States, it is sometimes used to replace table salt and pepper, as it is thought to enhance the flavor of a recipe. In Bulgaria, the savory herb is a common table spice, along with paprika and salt. These three ingredients are sometimes mixed to create what is called sharena sol, or colorful salt.

In addition to its uses in the culinary world, summer savory has long been thought to be a natural remedy for a number of ailments. In early Rome, this plant was thought to be an aphrodisiac. As time went by these plants became better known as digestive aids, as they are sometimes thought to be a beneficial treatment for diarrhea, flatulence, and nausea. They are also thought to be helpful in treating everything from baldness to menstrual cramps, toothaches, and lung ailments. Due to the strong, pleasant aroma of this plant, it is also sometimes used in aromatherapy, as it is said to have a stimulating effect.

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