Oregano - Origanum - is a summer flowering hardy herbaceous perennial herb native to the Mediterranean, but is grown almost world-wide. The plant normally grown for herbal reasons, is Origanum vulgare - a variable busy herb that grow to 2ft tall dependent upon variety, with aromatic leaves that are normally dark green.
The tubular flowers are pink to purple. The flavour of this herb varies depending to the soil and sun and the general growing conditions.
Try not to use any fertilizer as it will be detrimental to the flavour of the Origanum herb. Harvesting can be started with the herb when it is about 4inches tall and it has at least a dozen leaves, pinch off leaves of the Origanum - oregano - for use in your cooking.
Oregano is a herb that has been used for thousands of years, used to treat, indigestion, bloating, flatulence, colds and coughs, headaches, fevers, swollen glands, fevers, vomiting and jaundice and many more.
Origanum belongs to the Mint family of Labiatae and as with most in this group that are grown as herbs, is quite easy to grow. If you can give it a sunny or well lit area with any reasonable, well drained soil, it will repay you with interesting foliage and years of trouble-free growth.
It is stoloniferous, so easy to take cuttings or simply pull up a few layered shoots. If you must, Oreganum is easily grown from cuttings - either normal softwood cuttings, or placed in a glass of water on the windowsill!
Origanum vulgare will grow to around 30-60cm (12-24in) with a similar spread. If it gets too bushy or floppy, simply cut it back to near ground level at any time up to end of August.
Origanum vulgare has a few cultivars which are very attractive; Origanum. v. Aureum with bright gold foliage; Origanum vulgare Aureum Crispum - or Golden Curly Tips is also gold leaved, but with interesting curled edges of the leaves. There is also a cultivar, Origanum vulgare Hot and Spicy, which I suspect is closely related to the wild Origanum grown and used in spice dishes in Thailand.
Watering Origanum is rarely necessary - even in the hottest of summers - so make for a useful plant on a hot, dry sunny bank - or in a large rock garden. It can sometime succumb in a long wet cold winter. If grown in well drained area, it will have better chance of success.
Teas can be used as a mouth wash, dried leaves are used in infusions. Leaves are also pulverized and made into capsules. A paste can be mixed and used as a tooth paste, the paste can also be used for rheumatism, swelling and aching muscles and even sores. Oil can be made using the leaves to relieve toothache pain.
No less a physician than Hippocrates, used Origanum as an antiseptic. Added to this the fact that it is rich in flavonoids and phenolic acids - making for a natural anti-oxidant. As with many herbal remedies and uses, there is little science to support the wide-ranging claims made for this herb. However, we are aware of test-tube studies that support its use as an agent against the stomach bug Lysteria.
The taste between fresh and dried Oregano is so different, the extra flavour of the fresh oregano herb is far superior, though you might read the reverse on other pages! I am assured by a good Chef that the dried leaves are the ones to use - and he has a fresh herb garden at his disposal. You can try either and make up your own mind.
The Greeks find this oregano herb invaluable and is used in many Greek salads and dishes. The Italians use this herb for pizzas and their famous tomato sauces. Oregano is a basic ingredient in Mediterranean cooking. Oregano combines well with oils and pickles. A marinate made with lemon juice olive oil salt and oregano will enhance any chicken. Sprinkle dried oregano over aubergines before grilling for a wonderful robust aromatic flavour. Store fresh oregano in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to three days, or alternatively freeze when freshly picked.
References - ^ Dragland, Steinar; et al. (1 May 2003). "Several culinary and medicinal herbs are important sources of dietary antioxidants" . J Nutr. 133 (5): 1286–1290. PMID 12730411 .