Greek Oregano is the classic culinary oregano, considered the best all-purpose culinary variety it brings a deep, complicated flavour and savoriness to many cuisines. Its spicy yet refreshing flavour contributes to Italian, Greek, and Spanish cuisine, as well as Mexican.
The plants are perennial, vigorous and very hardy, with darker green foliage. They grow to a height of around 60cm (24in), are extremely drought-tolerant and have white flowers.
Complementary spices to oregano are thyme, parsley, chives, basil, and chili. Oregano is delicious in bread, pasta dishes, stuffing, and of course pizza.
Culinary members of Origanum are easy-to-grow perennials that tolerate a variety of soils, as long as those soils are well drained. Like most Mediterranean-type herbs, they are easy to grow, they need only moderate water and grow best in a gravelly loam in full sun. The plants are also effective as an ornamental in window boxes, hanging baskets or containers.
During summer, the plant is almost covered in white flowers. You can let oregano bloom as the flowers are wonderful for pollinating insects, or sheer the plants to ground to encourage new leafy growth for culinary use.
Prepare the site:
Culinary members of the origanum family are easy-to-grow perennials that tolerate a variety of soils, as long as those soils are well drained. Like most Mediterranean-type herbs, they need only moderate water and grow best in a gravelly loam in full sun.
Humidity, periods of excessive rain, or overwatering leads to root rot, which eventually kills the plant. To avoid it, amend your soil to ensure better drainage or grow in raise beds. If too much humidity is a problem, encourage good air circulation by giving your plants plenty of room to spread.
Sow at any time if the plant is to be kept indoors. Sow indoors in spring to plant out in summer, or sow in August to September to overwinter the plants for next year. The seeds can also be sown directly where the plants are to grow in a well prepared bed in early summer once all danger of frosts have passed.
Start seed indoors 6 to 8 weeks before last frost date. Sow the seed thinly, if growing in pots sow enough for a few plants in each pot. Press seeds in lightly. Do not cover the seeds with soil, as they need light to germinate.
Oregano seeds germinate in around 14 days. Once the seedlings have developed two pairs of true leaves, thin out the weakest seedlings. In outdoor beds, space seedlings or thin plants to 30cm (12in) apart, in rows 45cm (18in) apart.
Grow in full sun and plant out in spring after threat of frost. Oregano's fertiliser needs are minimal and often nonexistent, especially if you amend the soil with compost or other organic matter. (Fertiliser changes the flavour). Avoid over-feeding or over-watering to maintain pungency of flavour in the leaves, but keep in mind that container-grown plants need to be watered more often than plants grown in the ground.
The Oregano plants will go dormant in winter and look almost dead. Avoid over-watering during this time and the plant should revive in spring. Make the practice of making lots of cuttings/divisions to multiply your plants for giving away or refreshing your oregano bed.
Oregano tends to get leggier and more sprawling if left unclipped. The plants have an upright nature, over time they may reach a size of about 60 to 72cm (24 to 30in) tall and about the same wide. Keeping the plants clipped improves the taste of the leaves.
Oregano can be used with most crops but especially good for cabbage. Plant near broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower to repel cabbage butterfly and near cucumbers to repel cucumber beetle. Also benefits grapes.
You can begin harvesting the leaves once the plant is about 20cm (8in) high. The flavour is most intense just before the plant blooms. Frequent harvests will produce a bushier plant and keeps foliage succulent. It's a good idea to cut plants back to about 15cm (6in) at least twice during the growing season, leaving ample growth in autumn to sustain the plant through winter.
You can let oregano bloom as the flowers are wonderful for pollinating insects, or sheer the plants to ground to encourage new leafy growth for culinary use.
Oregano's robust flavour is often called for in the recipes of Italian, Greek, North African and Mexican cuisines, whereas Marjoram flavour is sweeter and milder and is most often called for in recipes of French or English origin.
Oregano's pungent, spicy flavour makes it a perfect match for tomato based sauces, eggplant, seafood, and grilled meats. Italian dishes are practically synonymous with oregano; it is hard to imagine pasta sauce or pizza without it. Oregano's rich flavour deepens and melds flavors of soups and sauces without overwhelming the dish. Because it retains its flavour well, oregano can be used either fresh or dried. If you are using the fresh herb, use twice the amount of it as you would the dried called for in a recipe.
Start with a small amount, a little goes a long way. Taste as you go and add more if needed.
This is one herb that many people prefer dried. Drying deepens the flavour and mellows it, so it's not as bitter.
Cut oregano in the morning, after the dew has dried. Hang it in small bunches upside down, or lay it on screens in a warm, dry place. Once the leaves are crisp, remove the leaves from the stems and store them, whole, in a glass container. To preserve the essential oils, wait until just before using them to chop or crush them.
Many people skip the drying process altogether and simply chop the leaves finely, and either - add a small amount of water and freeze in ice cube trays for later use, or add the chopped leaves to softened butter. The oregano butter, when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, will last for several weeks.
Origanum is a genus of about 50 species of herbaceous perennials and subshrubs in the family Lamiaceae, native to the Mediterranean and south eastern Asia, where they are found in open or mountainous habitats. The genus includes the important group of culinary herbs, marjoram and oregano.
There are many types of oregano with varying flavours used for cooking and some species which are used ornamentally. Apart from flavour, oregano has unique medicinal properties which were well known from ancient times.
Oregano is the anglicised form of the Italian origano, or possibly of the medieval Latin organum. Both were drawn from the Classical Latin term origanum which was itself a derivation from the Greek origanon.
The herb is commonly called ‘joy of the mountain’ in Greece. The etymology is often given as oros, meaning ‘mountain’ and the verb ganousthai or ganos meaning 'delight in' or ‘joy’. Greeks felt that the sweet smell was created by Aphrodite as a symbol of happiness. Bridal couples were crowned with it and it was placed on tombs to give peace to the departed.
The genus Origanum consists of over 44 species, 6 subspecies, 3 botanical varieties and 18 naturally occurring hybrids. There are also plants that are known and used as Oregano do not necessarily belong to the genus Origanum.
The main species that are used in cooking and that we stock, available as seed are:
- Origanum vulgare, Pot Marjoram is the popular one found in commercially sold spices. The plants grow to around 60cm (24in) and bloom with flowers in shades of lilac-pink.
- Origanum majorana, Sweet Marjoram has a sweeter flavour with piney/citrus overtones. The plants are more tender than Pot Marjoram, they grow to around 40cm (16in) and have white flowers.
- Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum, Greek Oregano is considered the best oregano for culinary use with a deeper, more complicated flavour. This is due to a higher concentration of the phenolic compound carvacrol which lends oregano its penetrating quality. The plants grow to a height of around 60cm (24in), are extremely drought-tolerant and have white flowers.
- Origanum syriacum, Syrian oregano or Za'atar, is a special oregano not widely available. It is more aromatic than the European variant and combines the flavours of Marjoram, Oregano, and Thyme.
Other plants called Oregano:
- Mexican oregano, Lippia graveolens. The leaves are widely used as an herb in Mexico and Central America and posses a flavour that is similar to oregano, somewhat more like savory, instead of the piney hint of rosemary flavour in oregano.
- Cuban oregano or Oregano poleo, Plectranthus amboinicus. Sometimes also called 'Mexican mint or Mexican thyme', it has large and somewhat succulent leaves. Not just a Latin American plant, it's also grown and used throughout the tropics, including Africa and Southeast Asia.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 100mg Average Seed Count 1300 Seeds Common Name Greek Oregano, Other Common Names Wild Marjoram, Winter Marjoram Family Lamiaceae Genus Origanum Species vulgare ssp. hirtum Cultivar var. prismaticum Synonym Origanum heracleoticum Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers White flowers Natural Flower Time July to September Height 60 to 72cm (24 to 30in) Spread 60 to 72cm (24 to 30in) Time to Sow September to May Germination 10 to 14 days Time to Harvest 42 days.