About ten years ago, browsing around a German supermarket, I came across a packet of herbs with the name Bohnenkraut. Well, that translates as "bean herb" and as I cook with beans a lot, I thought I'd give it a go.
It was wonderful. Following the suggestions on the packet, I added it to anything which contained tomatoes, beans, lentils ... and soon I was hooked. But what was it exactly?
It tasted a bit, but not quite, like oregano - though I preferred it by far. Could it be a blend of various herbs? A bit like the French Herbes de Provence? I decided it must be.
I couldn't find anything like it anywhere else. I tried in Britain, in Italy - but nowhere had a German blend of herbs with anything like the name bean herb.
And so, for about ten years I just stocked up every time I went there, bringing home enough packets to last me till I went again or someone visited and could bring them out. And added it to just about everything. Roast chicken, beef stew ... I don't think two days go by when we don't have Bohnenkraut in something. I confess - I'm an addict. The recipes say oregano? basil? sage? Forget it - stick in some Bohnenkraut.
And then, while I was there this Christmas, I went to the local garden centre to buy some seeds and found .... Bohnenkraut. So it wasn't a blend after all. But then what the heck was it?
I'll cut a long and Google-dominated story short. It's savory.
Now that's a herb I'd heard of, but if you'd asked me if I'd ever tried it, I'd have said no.
Try looking for recipes with savory on the web. You will find them, but they're few and far between. Why is it so ignored? If the web is to be believed it's used a lot in Canada,and also in Bulgaria and Romania, but here in Southern Europe is largely unknown - odd because apparently it grows here. I did find the Italian name, Santoreggia, and then remembered having seen it in a little greengrocer's which specialises in heirloom fruit and veg, but apart from that I've never heard of it being used.
Needless to say, when I came home after my trip to the garden centre, there was a packet of savory seeds tucked firmly into my bag. I've bought summer savory (Satureja hortensis),an annual which is apparently milder in flavour than the perennial winter savory (Satureja montana). I've no idea which one my dried herbs are - I'll find out when it's big enough to harvest.
If you can find it, I recommend strongly that you try it. If you grow from seed, it will germinate at 18-20°C (65-70F), so start it off indoors or in the greenhouse any time from now on. And then it likes the sun.
Apart from the fact that it tastes wonderful, it also acts against the anti-social effects that can often come from eating food like beans - all these years of wondering why the beans I cooked didn't cause the problems they were supposed to ...
And (or but, depending on how you look at it), according to the ancient Romans, it's an aphrodisiac. Now, I've been feeding it to my husband for the last ten years and I have to say.... But no, perhaps not. I'll leave you to try it. You can find out for yourselves.