Herb Guide: Oregano
Also, Known As:
- Common Marjoram
- True Oregano
- Turkish Oregano
- Wild Marjoram
- Winter Marjoram
The famous European herb called the oregano or the pot marjoram is a very familiar spice, botanical name Origanum vulgare. It is a common herb, and the European oregano is known to be a very hardy and perennial herb characterized by the presence of an erect, and somewhat hairy and well-branched stem, the leaves of the herb are also hairy. When fully grown, the plant can cross two feet in height, and is characterized by a very acrid and pungent odor, the fragrance of the plant is very strong, and has a sage-like an aroma, it also smells somewhat like another spice, the thyme – also used in a lot of European cuisines.
The oregano also refers to the pleasant and mint smelling European herb, the marjoram, or the wild marjoram as it is sometimes called. This spice can be used on meat and fish dishes as it resembles thyme in flavor and aroma. The marjoram oregano is often mistaken for the stronger and more potent Greek oregano – O. heracleoticum, this very pungent herb that is sometimes packaged as oregano or simply Greek oregano, the true marjoram oregano must also not be confused with another common kitchen herb, called the sweet marjoram, which is also used in culinary recipes of many European countries.
The name oregano for the spice and the botanical genus, Origanum for the plant is derived from the Greek words oros – for mountain and another Greek word – ganos, for joy – thus the herb can be said to be “joy of the mountain” in translation. The oregano herb has been considered to be a symbol of happiness because of the profusion of vivid purplish flowers that bloom from the plants carpeting many hilly Mediterranean landscapes. The blooming of these beautiful flowers on the mountains had a symbolic and spiritual meaning for the ancient Greeks, the herb springing up on the graves of the dead signified that the happiness of the deceased person in the afterlife. Marjoram floral wreaths were very commonly worn by couples at both Greek and Roman marriages, this floral wreaths of the herb were taken to symbolize the joyfulness of the wedding and the happiness of the couple.
Plant Parts Used:
Aerial parts, essential oil.
Herbal Remedy Use:
Bile flow is stimulated by the oregano, and the herb also aids in alleviating the discomfort of flatulence and excess abdominal gas. The oregano has a very potent antiseptic action, many respiratory conditions including various coughs, problems such as tonsillitis, problems like bronchitis and asthma affecting patients can be treated using the herbal remedy. Menstruation is said to be promoted by the oregano, and herbalists give this remedy for women with menstrual difficulties. Oregano oil is used after dilution and topically applied to treat a toothache as well as painful joints in patients.
A toothache was typically treated using the oil of the oregano during medieval times and herbalist traditionally gave this to their patients. The use of the oregano as an aid to digestion began during the 16th and 17th centuries when herbalists commonly prescribed the herb; it was also used as a diuretic herb. The oregano was also used as an antidote for venomous bites from snakes and insects. In addition, the herbal remedy was used as a topical ointment to alleviate itching and other skin disorders.
Though there are many varieties of the European oregano, oregano growing in the wilds of Greece is believed to be the best in flavor and taste. This wild oregano is normally picked by Greek shepherds. Homegrown, Greek oregano cultivated in the garden will no be so bad either, garden grown Greek oregano can be used to flavor any culinary recipe or dishes, such as pizza, pasta, all sorts of tomato based dishes, different Italian sauces. Oregano can be used green in salads, it can be used to flavor shellfish and added to cheese spreads, it can be used in vegetable casseroles and soups, oregano can also be used in meat stews, with poultry, and other meat dishes including pork and beef, lamb and veal dishes. Oregano leaves can be crushed and then added during the last ten minutes of cooking to a dish to bring out the maximum flavor and aroma. The herb should not be excessively used. Fresh sprigs of the Greek oregano can be used to flavor olive oil.
Habitat Of Oregano:
The oregano herb is found native in continental Europe, though it has now been naturalized in areas of the Middle East with similar climates. The oregano herb is a perennial plant. Ideal conditions for the plant include growing conditions such as a well-drained and slightly alkaline soil with a lot of exposure to sunlight. The oregano herb can be propagated using the seeds, it can also be grown using the root division method, or by planting stem cuttings of the herb. Ideally, soils for growing the Greek oregano should be light and rich; they should be porous and well-drained without imbibing too much water during rains. The oregano ideally grows well in pH ranges between 4.5 to 8.7. The herb prefers full exposure to sunlight and must be grown in a warm and sheltered location. While growing the herb, the top 2.5 cm or inch of the soil must be allowed to dry out between two periods of watering. The young seedlings can be obtained from a nursery and these can be planted during the early summer or in the spring. Stored seeds of the Greek oregano can also be cultivated, however, these lack flavor and aroma and ideally nursery raised plants from cuttings and other methods are ideal for home garden cultivation. Growing oregano plants must be spaced at least thirty cm or twelve inches apart from each other for optimal growth. Oregano grows very slowly and the soil must be weeded on a regular basis to ensure maximum growth of the crop during the growing season. The oregano is sometimes also propagated by using a layering of the stems taken from full-grown plants. In this form of propagation, the layered stems are pinned down to the ground during the early summer and kept covered with loose soil until they began to root into the soil. The soil must be kept moist at all times when propagating the plant in this way. During the early fall, the new grown and rooted seedling can be transplanted to a new place. To maintain a continuous supply of fresh leaves, the flowers must be pinched off as and when they develop. The oregano is vulnerable to root rot and leaf spot disease; it is also prone to infestations of aphids, from spider mites, and other leaf-mining insects. The flavor of older plants tends to lessen with time, and these must be replaced with newer seedlings in pots on a regular basis. During the spring, the plants can be replanted outdoors in the garden, this must be carried out only when the danger of late frost is over.
Growing in Containers:
The ideal way to grow oregano in containers is to keep the growing plant well pruned and pinched at all times during the growing process, so as to have a rounded and bushy shape which is manageable at all times. A growing pot should be about ten to twelve inches or twenty-five to thirty cm wide pot, the ideal soil mixture must have some coarse sand with the clay. When cultivating using seeds, you must make sure that the seeds are initially sown in the pot out of doors early during the spring season or germinated seedlings can be settled into growing containers immediately following the last frost of the year. Following germination and rooting, a sunny spot free from strong exposure to high winds must be chosen for placement of the containers. The containers must have the soil moistened by regular watering done without saturating the soil, at the same time, a balanced mineral fertilizer must also be added to the soul once every three weeks to ensure optimal growth of the plants.
When grown indoors, the oregano can be an ideal container plant if placed in a brightly lit and cool area of the house, ideally, several dwarf plants for each container will give the best results when the plant is grown indoors. To obtain maximum oil production in the leaves, place the plants in an area facing the sunny southwest window of the house. The growing potted plant must be regularly watered without saturating the soil, following every four weeks by the use of a suitable fertilizer. Maintain optimal growth by pinching off the growing tips of the leaves to help keep the shape of the plant at a manageable size. The Mexican oregano is similar to the European oregano, and can be an alternative plant for growing indoors in pots, this variety is sometimes also known as the Puerto Rican oregano – botanical name – Lippia graveolens, maintenance is similar to the European variety. In fact, most North American oregano that is marketed in bulk bags is actually Lippia graveolens. This plant is a good pot plant for indoors, as it is quite intolerant of the cold ambient temperatures in most North American outdoor gardens. Two other varieties of tender oregano plants called the Microphylla Oregano – botanical name – 0. microphylla and the Turkestan Oregano – botanical name 0. tyttanticum – can also grow well indoors.
Oregano contains a volatile oil (comprising carvacrol, thymol, beta bisabolene, caryophyllene, linalool, and borneol), tannins, resin, sterols, and flavonoids. Both carvacrol and thymol are antibacterial and antifungal.
Herbal Infusion, Tincture, Mouthwash:
An oregano herbal infusion meant for consumption can be prepared by boiling a teaspoonful of the herb in a cup of water and letting the herbal essences infuse into the water for ten to fifteen minutes, following which the herb solution can be strained and cooled, ready for use. Dosages of this infusion can be one dose taken thrice daily for the duration of the treatment period. A herbal oregano mouthwash can also be prepared from the herb by using half a liter or a pint of boiling water. Add two tablespoonfuls of the herb and letting this infuse. A covered container can be used to let this concoction stand and infuse slowly for a further ten minutes before cooling and straining the solution. This solution can be used as an oral gargle whenever needed by warming it just before use. The ideal gargle should last five to ten minutes per session and must be repeated three to four times every day during the treatment regimen. A herbal oregano tincture is also used in treatments, and this can be used in doses of 1- 2 ml of oregano tincture, taken three times daily by the patient.
Harvesting Of Oregano:
Harvesting of oregano occurs immediately on the flowering of the plants, during the gathering, the larger and thicker stalks are normally left on the plant. Ideally, small sized or smaller sprigs of oregano leaves are preferred, and these can moreover be plucked off individual plants during the entire growing season of the plant. The main reason for the harvesting of the leaves and stems for purposes of drying and storage, particularly during the floral bloom of the plant, is due to the great flavor and fragrance carried by the herb at this time. During harvest make sure that the stems of the herb are cut at least 2.5 cm or an inch, above the ground, these cut stems can then be tied in easily managed bunches. The collected stems can be dried by hanging the tied bunches in a warm and dry location, with a lot of shade and without direct exposure to ambient sunlight. Once dried, the dried leaves can be stripped from the stems and stored in future use airtight containers or sealed jars. The flavor of the leaves is greatest when they are dried and the intensity of the flavor is much more than the fresh leaves due to the drying process. For this reason, dried oregano is preferred over fresh oregano in culinary preparations.
Quick Pizza Sandwiches with Oregano
- 4 English muffins
- 1/4 cup chili sauce
- 1/4 cup Mozzarella, grated
- 2 hot dogs, or 4 slices garlic or Italian sausage
- 4 mushrooms
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
Slice the muffins into halves, or tear them into halves with two forks. Under a medium broiler, toast the smooth side until quite brown and dry.
Remove the muffins from the oven, turn them over, and spread them with chili sauce, sprinkle with cheese, add a hot dog or sausage slices. Cut each mushroom into 3 pieces, and divide over the pieces of muffins. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon oregano over each slice, and drizzle each slice with olive oil. Broil under a medium broiler until the cheese bubbles and is melted. Serve at once.