Savory is, for one thing, a category applied to foods that are not sweet; it suggests either spicy or tart flavors. There are a number of foods that have both a sweet and a savory preparation. For example, sweet potatoes, paté a choix, cous cous, quiche, polenta, crepes, popcorn,and soup can all be served as a sweet or dessert course, or prepared as a savory.
The word also refers to an annual herb in the mint family, Labiatae, with two varieties that are commonly used by people: winter and summer savory. The winter type is sometimes referred to as spring savory. Another variety, Satureja douglasii, is the "good herb" — Yerba Buena — that served as the early name for the city now known as San Francisco.
Summer savory is Satureja hortensis. Originating in southeast Europe, it has been naturalized elsewhere, and it is the type that is most often found in herb gardens and used as a seasoning. It can be found in recipes for foccacia, marinades, stuffing, pilaf, meatballs, soups, bean dishes, eggs, and fish, and is sometimes included in the premade seasoning blend called Italian seasoning, along with oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, sage, and rosemary. Dried savory is available year round, and fresh herbs can be used during the summer months.
Winter savory is Satureja montana. It has pink and white flowers and leaves that are a bit leathery. This herb is stronger than summer savory, but can be substituted for it when necessary.
Savory is used in commercial toothpaste and soap. It has been recommended for a variety of medicinal purposes, from gargling to aiding digestion to using it as a disinfectant. Virgil suggested planting it near beehives for the flavor it adds to honey, and it is also used in salami, showing what a wide gamut of uses it has.