Coming from the mint family, everyone seems to have a nice container of oregano in their cabinets. Obviously very popular with Italian cuisine and also originated from Italy and the Mediterranean sea. It is a perennial herb and plant. Oregano is known botanically as Origanum vulgare and is called wild marjoram in many parts of Europe since it is closely related to the herb that we know as sweet marjoram. Its name is derived from the Greek words “oros” (mountain) and “ganos” (joy) since not only was it a symbol of happiness, but it made the hillsides on which it grew look beautiful.
What to look for:
It will grow in a bush type plant, and often times requires sunlight, and open areas, and will not grow just anywhere. Some of the plants will have light lavender and purple budding flowers. When in bloom, the plant sports pink or purple flowers, which are also edible. The leaves are used fresh from the plant or dried. Oregano is one of the few herbs that is stronger when dried than when fresh. Commercially, oregano’s biggest market is in perfumes.
How Mother Nature loves it:
Warm sunshine, and good soil. These are a little bit more picky than some of the other herbs and plants, and often times can be found wild in warm climates. Oregano is a hardy perennial that may need winter protection to survive in the colder zone in northern Illinois. It may grow two feet tall with a rounded, sprawling spread of 18 inches. White or pinkish-purple flower spikelets appear in mid to late summer. The cultivar ‘Aureum’ has golden yellow leaves and develops into an 8–10 inch mound.
How to use it:
Oregano was first used by the Greeks. In their mythology the goddess Aphrodite invented the spice. Giving it to man to make his life happier. The word “oregano” is actually derived from the Greek phrase, “joy of the mountains”. Just married couples were crowned with wreaths of it. It was also put on graves to give peace to departed spirits. Ancient Greek physicians discovered that the herb had beneficial effects and prescribed it for a variety of ailments. Hippocrates used it as well as its close cousin, marjoram as an antiseptic.
Oregano, commonly called “the pizza herb,” is one of the most widely-used herbs worldwide, so it is hard to imagine anyone not having tried it. However, oregano was virtually unused in America until returning World War II soldiers heightened the popularity of pizza.
Oregano is high in antioxidant activity, due to a high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids. In some other countries they use orgeano to treat mild medical conditions.Use oregano in Spanish, Italian and Mexican cooking.
Oregano is known botanically as Origanum vulgare and is called wild marjoram in many parts of Europe since it is closely related to the herb that we know as sweet marjoram. It is a small shrub with multi-branched stems covered with small grayish-green oval leaves and small white or pink flowers. In Mediterranean climates oregano grows as a perennial plant, but in the harsher climates of North America, they grow as annuals.