Oregano is a strong flavored herb sometimes called wild marjoram. Oregano leaves are used fresh or dried to flavor many cooked foods including tomatoes, sauces, salad dressings, and marinades for grilled meats. The flavor of oregano is pungent, spicy, and sometimes bitter. Oregano is often used in Spanish and Italian cooking.
Oregano should not be confused with marjoram, also called sweet marjoram. Marjoram is a subspecies of oregano. Marjoram is delicate flavored when compared to oregano. It has a sweet, floral fragrance. While oregano is used early in the cooking process, marjoram is best added at the end of cooking.
Oregano and marjoram are members of the mint family. Marjoram being a subspecies of oregano, the plants are nearly indistinguishable in appearance, but there are differences. Oregano has oval dark green leaves and stands upright to 2½ feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide; marjoram has oval gray-green leaves and stand 1 to 2 feet tall and wide. Oregano has white or purplish pink flowers from midsummer to early fall; marjoram has inconspicuous white flowers.
Description: Upright growth to 2½ feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide. Oval dark green leaves; white or purplish pink blossoms from midsummer to early fall.
Yield. Grow one oregano plant per household.
Site. Plant oregano in full sun; it will tolerate light shade. Grow oregano in loose, well-drained soil. Oregano prefers a soil pH of 6.7 to 7.0. Oregano can thrives in poor soil that is well drained.
Planting time. Direct sow oregano seeds or set out transplants on the average date of the last frost in spring. To get a head start on the season, sow oregano as early as 4 weeks before the average last frost date indoors for transplanting out after the last frost. Oregano is slow to germinate so sowing indoors at 70°F is optimal. Oregano also can be grown from root divisions taken in fall, over-wintered indoors, and set out in spring.
Planting and spacing. Sow oregano seed ¼ inch deep; thin successful seedlings or set transplants to 6 inches apart. Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart.
Water and feeding. Give oregano regular even water until it is established. Once established, water oregano sparingly allowing the soil to dry between waterings. Moist soil will cause oregano to be less flavorful. Foliar feed oregano by spraying with compost tea or liquid seaweed extract 2 to 3 times during the growing season
Companion plants. Oregano grows well with all vegetables and herbs.
Care. Keep oregano pinched back to induce bushy growth and for best aroma and flavor; flowering will result in a loss of leaf flavor. Mulch oregano in warm weather to protect roots from too much heat. In cold-winter regions, divide plants in fall and over-winter indoors for re-planting out in spring.
Container growing. Oregano grows easily in containers. Select a container 6 inches deep. Potted oregano can be grown indoors in a bright, sunny window.
Pests. Oregano has no serious pest problems. Aphids and spider mites may attack oregano but they can be sprayed away with a strong stream of water.
Diseases. Oregano has no serious disease problems. Oregano grown in wet soil or wet weather may suffer from root rot or damping off.
Harvest. Oregano is ready for harvest 60 days after sowing. Cut fresh leaves as needed once plants are 4 to 6 inches tall. Cut-and-come-again harvesting will renew plants. Flavor is best before the plant flowers.
Varieties: Here are varieties of Origanum vulgare, also called oregano or wild marjoram: ‘Aureum’ is creeping golden marjoram; ‘Aureum Crispum’ has curly golden leaves; ‘Compactum’ is low growing; ‘Thumbles Variety’ is green and gold variegated; ‘Kaliteri’ has silver-gray leaves; ‘White Anniversary’ is green and white variegated.
Storing and preserving: xx
Common name: Oregano, wild marjoram
Botanical name: Origanum vulgare
Origin: Most of Europe and temperate Asia