Oregano: Herb of the Year™ 2005 ~ Compiled by the International Herb Association Horticulture Committee: Charles E. Voigt, Chair

Outrageous Oregano and Mild-Mannered Marjoram

Botanyexcerpts from leading authorities including Arthur O. Tucker and Rexford Talbert

The world of popular or common oregano and marjoram nomenclature is somewhat confused and confusing. (4) To some extent, oregano is a flavor, more than an individual plant. True oregano comes from the genusOriganum, but Mexican Oregano, Lippia graveolens, and Cuban Oregano,Plectranthus amboinicus, also have the scent and flavor known as oregano.

History and Lorediscover the old world customs

This is truly an ancient herb. Egyptians considered Origanum species to be sacred to the god Osiris, and wove it into crowns or wreaths worn during rituals. Traditionally, sweet marjoram has been a symbol of youth, beauty, and happiness

Popular Varieties

What is the true oregano? As Rex Talbert phrases it, You have to use your nose.

Variety List 22 listings broken into types with cultural information, plant descriptions, and suggestions for use

  • Culinary Types
  • Marjorams
  • Dual Purpose
  • Ornamental
  • Non-Origanum Oreganos

Culinary Use described by our favorite cooks Susan Belsinger, Pat Crocker and the late Marge Clark

Greeks, Italians, and Spaniards were the first to fall in love with the flavor of oregano and use it creatively in their cuisines. Through the Spanish, it was introduced to Mexico and became an important culinary herb there. Many popular Mexican dishes now incorporate oregano as a matter of course (8)

Medicinal Use from James Duke

Good culinary oregano has a hot, peppery flavor with a hint of clove and balsam.

Ornamental Use described by well-seasoned gardeners

Other Uses

Marjorams fragrance is still prized by perfume and soap makers, as well as by cooks. Bees show an intense enjoyment of marjorams blossoms at the end of the summer. The clusters of small purple flowers can be dried for use in herb and flower potpourri. The Romans, who recognized and chronicled the sensual delights of many plants, made sachets of marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and lavender to perfume linens and baths.


Propagation described by Charles Voigt

Culture compiled from the knowledge and experience of some of our best gardeners and writers: Susan Belsinger, Pat Crocker, and Charles Voight.

Since fresh oregano and marjoram are not always available in American markets, it is worth the small effort to cultivate them yourself. Members of theOriganum genus like good drainage and perform better if they are kept free of weeds, with enough room around each plant for its fine-branching lateral roots. They are fairly un-fussy plants, but do need to be divided every two or three years, as they spread, use up all of the nutrients in the soil, and begin to choke themselves out.

Harvest: Timing is Everything

Preserving methods from drying to freezing to vinegars explained in detail

Pests whats bugging your oreganoIn Conclusion

Properly informed and prepared, the gardener can taste culinary oregano plants and select the best for inclusion in the kitchen herb garden. The medicinal benefits of both oregano and marjoram are numerous and long practiced, but not currently very well publicized, compared to other herbs, such as garlic or ginkgo. Ornamental types may also be chosen, based on visual observation and plant description, for use in garden design and floral arrangements.


These are just a couple of teasers to entice you to order Outrageous Oregano and Mild Mannered Marjoram

Zesty Mediterranean Garlic Bread
Susan Belsinger

Make enough of this that everyone gets at least 2 (or more) slices, because this is so good, you cant eat just one! For the best flavor, use Origanum xmajoricum. If you use sundried tomatoes packed in oil, use a little of that oil as part of the half cup of olive oil. If using dried sundried tomatoes, you will need to reconstitute them. Do this by pouring hot (not quite boiling) water over them just so they are covered and let them sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Pour the water off, chop them fine, and continue with the recipe.Makes enough for about 12 slices of bread:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • About 12 slices good-quality rustic bread

In a small bowl combine the sundried tomatoes, oil, garlic, oregano, and parmesan and blend well. Either toast the bread and spoon the mixture onto each slice, or spoon it onto the slices, stack it, and wrap it in foil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350° F until hot.

Roasted Asparagus with Herbed Crab and Mushroom Sauce
Marge Powell

The following recipe works as either a side dish or a main meal:2 pounds fresh green asparagus

  • 3 tablespoons herb vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves stripped from stems

Mix all of the ingredients except the asparagus in the blender to make vinaigrette. Wash and trim the asparagus. Put the asparagus into a plastic bag, pour the vinaigrette over the asparagus and marinate overnight.

Heat the oven to 400° F. Arrange the asparagus in a shallow baking dish (you will serve from this dish). Pour the vinaigrette over the asparagus stalks and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the sauce:

  • 2 pounds small mushrooms-halved
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2/3-cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 tbl. finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tbl. finely chopped basil
  • 1 tbl. finely chopped sage
  • 2/3 cup white wine mixed with 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 16 ounces lump crab meat (fresh or canned)
  • 1/4 cup white bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (type) cheese

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook until the mushrooms are slightly softened. Add all of the herbs, lemon juice, and white wine with cornstarch. Bring to a slow boil and cook until thickened. Add the crab (drain it well if not using fresh crab).

Pour the crab and mushroom mixture over the asparagus stalks in the pan. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Return to oven and broil for a few minutes to brown the cheese. Serve immediately.

Peach Melba
Pat Crocker, Riversong Herbs

  • 3 fresh, ripe peaches, skinned, cut in half, stone removed or use Fancy Grade canned peach halves
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) fresh lemon juice
  • 12 macaroon cookies
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh sweet marjoram
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) raspberry or strawberry jam
  • 6 sprigs sweet marjoram (for garnish)
  • 1 baking sheet, lightly oiled

Makes: 6 halves

Preheat oven broiler to (474° F/240° C) and adjust rack to highest level

Brush each peach half with about 1 tsp (5 mL) lemon juice, place, cut side up, on prepared baking sheet, set aside.

In food processor, chop cookies, butter and sweet marjoram together, about 30 seconds or until combined.

Divide crumbs into 6 portions and spoon into peach halves. Bake peaches in preheated oven for 2 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, heat jam in microwave on high 30 seconds, or until liquid.

Spoon 2 tbsp (25 mL) hot jam onto dessert plates, top with hot peach half and garnish with a sprig of marjoram.

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