Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > May 2015 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--Oregano

BONNIE'S GARDEN--Oregano

The ancient Greeks believe that oregano was a gift from Aphrodite—to bring happiness to the common man.  The botanical name for oregano “origanum” translates to “Joy of the Mountain.”  Even though it was used in the Mediterranean for centuries, it did not become popular in the United States until after World War II when soldiers returning from Europe raved about the flavor so common in many European dishes.

Like so many Mediterranean herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary, lavender, sage), oregano is a member of the mint family.  There are many different varieties of oregano—and some of them aren’t even oregano at all.  True oregano (origanum vulgare) is a perennial plant closely related to sweet marjoram (origanum majorana.) In many areas of Europe, oregano is called “wild marjoram.”  Here is a mini-breakdown of the most common varieties:

Italian oregano (Origanum x majoricum)—Italian oregano is actually a cross between oregano and marjoram.  It is a zesty herb, but has a bit of the sweetness of majoram.

Greek oregano (Origanum heracleoticum)—Greek oregano has a robust flavor with more peppery notes than Italian oregano.

Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus)—is not really a true oregano, though it is a member of the mint family.  It has large thick fuzzy leaves and is often grown ornamentally.  It iometimes called Mexican mint (not to be confused with the Mexican Mint Marigold.)

Mexican oregano (Lippia graveleons)—not a true oregano either but is actually related to lemon verbena.  It has a zesty flavor with strong lemony notes.  While Italian and Greek oregano can be substituted for the other, Mexican oregano has a different flavor and should not be used when a recipe calls for oregano.

Oregano “Hot and Spicy” (Origanum x majoricum)—“Hot and Spicy” is a cultivar of the Italian oregano that has a much more pronounced peppery flavor.  My favorite, by the way.

Sweet majoram (Origanum majorana)—Sweet majoram has a mild sweet oregano flavor.

Oregano starts quite easily from seed, but can also be started as cuttings from existing plants.  Like most Mediterranean herbs, it likes it warm and sunny, and does not tolerate wet soil.  It is perennial here in Zone 7.  If you grow it in a pot, then move the pot to a protected area over the winter—right up next to the house, for example.  If you allow it to bloom, the flowers are very attractive to bees and butterflies.

By the way, the oregano you find at the grocery store is usually a mixture of several oreganos with the addition of marjoram and even thyme.
 
Posted: 5/18/2015 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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