Oregano with Pinky Flowers
From the Editors of ‘Bottom Line Health’ in the edition of “Uncommon Cures for Everyday Ailments I came across these lines:
“The herb Oregano can be a powerful cough soother. Make as tea with a teaspoon of dried Oregano steeped in a cup of hot water. Strain before sipping. You may drink up to three cups a day during a cold or coughing spell.”
The warm, balsamic and aromatic flavour of oregano makes it the perfect addition to Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines. This popular herb whose name means “mountain joy” is available throughout the year.
Oregano is known botanically as Oreganum 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 greyish-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. It’s a good ground-cover too.
Culinary oregano is a signature flavour of many Italian, Mexican and Spanish dishes. Most cooks are familiar with it in its dried form, but oregano is a hardy perennial plant that is easy to grow in the home garden. A handful of plants will provide you with enough oregano to use fresh in season and to dry for use throughout the winter.
Oregano seems like a straightforward enough herb. Anyone who has tasted a tomato-sauce-topped pizza can recall its flavour, which is hearty and assertive with a peppery bite and a zing. Yet once you take a closer look at oregano, things get a little confusing.
Many plants are loosely classified as oregano. Their flavour depends largely on where they’re cultivated; in general the hotter the sun, the stronger the flavour. To add to the confusion, some reference books call oregano “wild marjoram,” and many recipes suggest that the two herbs, both members of the mint family, are interchangeable. In fact, there are so many varieties of oregano that rather than thinking of oregano as a specific plant, one ought to think of it as a particular flavour.
Fortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it), when you buy fresh oregano, you’re rarely given a choice of variety. For much of the year, most stores sell Greek oregano, which is what the largest herb suppliers offer. But depending on the season and the availability of Greek oregano, you might instead find Mexican oregano, or some other variety. Though the flavours of these oreganos may be a little more or less intense (Mexican is usually stronger) they can be used interchangeably, so there’s no need to bring your botany book along to the grocery store.
An Oregano by Any Other Name, Would Not Taste as Sweet.