You may have noticed that I am going through an Italian cooking stage at the moment…. I have been using Oregano almost daily in meals. The flavor works so beautifully with tomato, eggplant and other key Italian ingredients. I am also enjoying it in Winter weather slow cooked meals that require a heavy herb influence.
Oregano is a herb that I recommend planting in your garden, or a container as it is not seasonal and will grow equally well in a pot or the garden. It can be harvested and added to your meal creations all year round.
The other herbs that I recommend are:
The plant has the botanical name Origanum Vulgare. It is a member of the Lamiaceae family.
The common name for this plant is Wild Marjoram, or Common Oregano. It can be difficult to distinguish between these two herbs. The leaves of Oregano are a little larger and darker but they are easily confused. The smell is also similar with Marjoram maybe having a rounder, deeper earthy fragrance and Oregano being a little more woody. Marjoram is a little sweeter, or softer in flavor.
Oregano can be grown easily from cuttings. Allow the plant room to spread and position it in full sun. As with most plants this one grows best in a well drained soil.
Plant it near cabbage plants for protection from Cabbage Butterfly.
As it is a flavor companion to tomatoes in cooking it is considered a growing companion also.
It thrives in a hot summer. This herb should not be over-watered. Water when dry in Summer months and allow rain to take care of it in the cooler months.
Oregano does spread in the space that it is allocated but not enough to be a nuisance. It is easily controlled and maintained by trimming a few times a year. It is a low growing shrub, growing to a height of 20-30 cm.
Other than cutting it back to get rid of any woody stems and to remove some runners that are spreading too far, I have not given my oregano plant any special care. It receives fertilising, along with the rest of the herbs twice a year and the occasional water with some sea weed solution. I have not encountered any issues with pests or disease.
Replace the plant every 3-4 years when the leaves become sparse.
To harvest Oregano cut it prior to flowering. I have read that it is best to pick it in the morning but I generally collect it as, or when required to add to a meal.
I maintain a store of dried oregano, even though it is readily available in my garden. I do this for the times that I can’t be bothered running down to the garden, or it is pouring rain, late at night etc. This herb is more fragrant when it has been dried than when it is fresh. This means that I tend to use it in it’s dried form more than fresh.
To dry Oregano hang it in a bunch in a dry, airy location and when dry rub the leaves and store in an air tight container. It may also be oven dried. Use a low heat and spread evenly across a baking tray. It will be complete in about 15 minutes. Keep a good eye on it as the drying time is quick due to the small size of the leaves.
Oregano is believed to aid digestion as well as be beneficial for aches and pains associated with colds and flu. The plant is said to have antiseptic properties and may be used as a headache remedy. In Switzerland a tea is made from the herb called “Red Tea”. It is provided as a drink after a heavy meal to aid digestion.
This herb has a lovely affinity to tomato dishes. It also works well as an addition to red meat dishes that are slow cooked. It will work well in most Mediterranean style dishes especially pizza and pasta as well as vegetable dishes.
Some of my recipes that include Oregano as a feature include:
- Honey glazed oregano chick peas
- Home made ravioli
- Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks (recipe coming soon)
- Baked polenta chips (recipe coming soon)
What is your favorite recipe using Oregano?
D Hall, The Book of Herbs, Angus and Robertson, 1975
Jill Nice, Herbal Remedies and Home Comforts, Platkus, 1993
D Ryman, Aromatherapy,1992, Judy Pialkus London,
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