A native of the Mediterranean and Middle Asia, Oregano was brought into America by soldiers returning from the Italian and Greek theaters. In this country it ended up on pizza, but in Europe its name means “joy of the mountains.” It has many uses and is easily grown under the right conditions.
Types of Oregano
Although there is a common type of oregano, also called “Wild Marjoram,” there are other highly noteworthy varieties of this plant:
- Common Oregano – The most popular type, it has round green leaves and purple flowers and grows two feet tall.
- Greek Oregano – Similar to the common type but has the strongest flavor in the family.
- Golden Oregano – A beautiful golden yellow leaved plant, it is purely ornamental and looks great in a garden.
- Dittany of Crete – A small variety that grows to ten inches high, with small wooly leaves and pinkish flowers, used as an ingredient in wine vermouth.
- Dwarf Oregano – This is a great ornamental ground cover that grows one or two inches high.
- Pot Marjoram – An unmistakable plant with two foot high stalks of hairy leaves, white flowers and a sharp flavor.
The list of varieties is quite extensive and I’ve listed what I feel are the best growing types above.
Oregano is a perennial and a typical plant can be productive for two or three years with little care. It can be grown from seeds (careful, the seeds are really small) with germination occurring in four to five days when kept in temperatures of about seventy degrees with minimal water. In fact, oregano can be grown indoors in pots year round. Since its origin is in a dry climate it does well in drought conditions. When planting in a larger garden it should be kept six inches away from other oregano plants but will enhance the growth of any beans or broccoli in the area. On the downside it is highly susceptible to root rot, which usually happens when the plants is not drained well. This is easily prevented by keeping your plantings away from low-lying areas where water can stand.
Probably the best thing about oregano is that it can be harvested year round, start snipping the sprigs when the plant reaches about six inches in height. When the plant starts budding it’s a good idea to cut the plant down to only the lower set of leaves. This will concentrate the flavor as the plant leafs back out in two weeks. Once snipped it can be easily frozen. Freezing into ice cubes for later use in stews and soups but it can also be air dried in a matter of days.
Oregano enhances both egg and cheese dishes, yeast bread, vegetables, beef, pork, poultry, game meats, tomato sauce, stuffing, shellfish, and of course goes great on pizza.