Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The only herb you'll ever need ...




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.



20 comments:

Jan and Steve said...

I've heard of it, but I don't know if I've tasted it. I wonder if it's growing round our house?

chaiselongue said...

Glad you've found out what your bean herb is. We have a perennial savory plant (sariette in French) in the garden and it does have a lovely flavour - we use it in sauces and salads. I think it's fairly common here in southern France. It goes well with tomatoes, as most Mediterranean herbs do. I hadn't heard of the connection with beans, though.

queenofseaford said...

Wow Sue, I loved having Bohnenkraut when we lived in Germany and never gave it a second thought as to what it was...good to know!!
Janet

siskelkk said...

How fantastic! I've never heard of this herb before (so it's obviously not a big thing here in oz) but maybe just maybe i'll have to try it - anything to remedy the aftershock of beans!

Kerri said...

I'm chuckling about your wrap up, Sue :)
This is an enlightening post. Who knew savoury could taste so good? I'll definitely have to give it a try.

Barbee' said...

That is so interesting, Sue. I had no idea what it was either, but I'm glad you figured it out. Good mystery story!

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Couldn't do without it. I especially like it with broad beans. BTW there's a post on Bliss that might interest you.

Cathy said...

Hi Sue,

My mother-in-law is German, she calls
it Azbit it's winter savory. I grow
it in my garden.

Scintilla @ Bell'Avventura said...

I'll look out for this in Luxembourg.
When you buy fresh broadbeans at the market here, they give you a herb called 'Sarriete'(sp?) which Luxembourgers cook together with their beans - I wonder if it's the same thing?

kompoStella said...

aha! i've had this in Germany but never knew the connection. very interesting post, Sue... and very funny too :-D

Chandramouli S said...

That's interesting. May be I should ask my sis in Germany to ship the to me... Thank you, Sue.

queenofseaford said...

An additional comment --if you get to a German grocery store-- buy Ostmann Fleisch und Gyros Wurzer--great seasoning blend for meats (duh!). Of course it has Bohnenkraut in it. I have a few jars of it-- anytime someone from the husband's office goes to Germany, they get a shopping list.
Janet

Mildred said...

I am going to look out for it. It's really strange that it so unknown, especially taking into account that savory is also a word used to describe a certain taste...

Heather said...

You have a beautiful balcony. I try to garden on my porch but it just isn't sunny at the right time of the day. You have inspired me to try again in the spring.

gittan said...

Very interesting reading. Since I'm going to Germany shortly I'll keep me eyes open for that. I've got to try =)
gittan
http://gittans.tradgardsblogg.se

VP said...

Winter Savory's one of my herb garden stalwarts. It's delicious!

Looking forward to seeing the results on your balcony :)

Carol Schnapp said...

My mother was born and raised in Germany, came here after the war to marry her GI. We went to visit our relatives in Germany when I was about 20 and my mother went looking all over at the groceries for the seasoning that her mother had used when she made beans. My aunt in Germany showed my mom what it was and my mom brought a packet back to Ohio with her, and again whenever she went to visit her sister. My mom has since passed away and my jar of the "bean seasoning" is close to empty. Thank you so much for your blog, and the English name of the herb! I grow herbs in my flower beds and inside so I will certainly be planting some savory! We always used it in green beans from the garden and I can't eat them without it now!

Anonymous said...

My parents both came from Germany and we live in new jersey both my parents have since pasted however I have my uncle send us the seasoning as my mother would always get it sent fom Germany it's awesome people don't hesitate get it

Mike said...

Actually Bohnenkraut is so named because it is traditionally used when cooking Green Beans. A few sprigs in the cooking water is how it is normally used.

Anonymous said...

A herb I have enjoyed for many years but had relatives send it from Germany who have now deceased.
Surely someone in OZ MUST SELL IT. Does anyone know where I can buy it

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