BOTANICAL NAME: Origanum
The Greeks called these fragrant-leafed herbs "Brightness of the Mountain." and it is impossible to imagine the cuisines of the Mediterranean and Aegean without their strong, warm aromatic taste.
Oregano has a more pungent scent than marjoram, with a stronger flavor. The hotter and drier the climate, the more aroma and flavor a variety will have. Sweet marjoram is the type used in cooking its aroma is damaged by heat, so use it in uncooked or lightly cooked dishes, or add it at the end.
Oregano is a more robust herb and can with stand longer cooking. Both herbs go well with lemon, garlic, wine, meats, fish, salads, Greek and Italian dishes, beans, eggplant, capsicum and tomato-based dishes and sauces. They are also used in commercial mixed herbs.
Origanum is a genus that is fraught with taxonomic difficulties, and there are more than 30 species from the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Confusingly, marjoram and oregano are common names that are often used interchangeably.
Sweet or knot marjoram has gray-green leaves with a mouthwatering fragrance. Although usually treated as an annual, it is a short lived perennial in mild climates. A hardier hybrid, 0. x morjoricum. may be sold incorrectly as "Italian Oregano".
Spartan oregano is frequently included in dried oregano mixes from Turkey. It resembles a diminutive gray-leafed sweet marjoram that has undergone relaxation therapy.
Pot marjoram or Turkish oregano is a quite cold-tender, strongly aromatic species from Greece. Selections of 0. vutgare are often incorrectly sold under this name.
Common oregano contains six subspecies. 0. vulgare subsp. vulgare is the mild flavored wild marjoram with clustered heads of pink flowers and deep burgundy bracts that attract bees, but lacks any appreciable flavor. It is often sold as oregano. Cultivars of 0. vulgare subsp. vulgare include the very attractive golden oregano, "Aureum" sometimes sold as "golden marjoram" which makes a superb aromatic ground cover for full sun, and "Jim Best" which is a vigorous gold and green variegated variety. 0. pulchellum is a name attached to forms of 0. vulgare with purple bracts.
Greek oregano has a deliciously strong fragrance. The very mildly aromatic 0. vulgare subsp. wrens and 0. vulgare subsp. viridulum are both called wild marjoram.
Syrian hyssop or white oregano forms a tender perennial subshrub with gray-green foliage. Ezov, the biblical hyssop, was almost certainly 0. syriocum. A hybrid with 0. vulgare, sold as 0. maru. has greater cold resistance.
Russian oregano has an aroma that is similar to Greek oregano.
Algerian oregano is rarely seen outside its native land but is a good culinary herb.
Ornamental origanums - many species and hybrids of Origanum are grown simply for their beauty and fragrance. They include "Herrenhausen". "Country Cream" the aromatic and strangely beautiful a very aromatic species, the source of the essential oil oleum origoni.
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Origanum vulgore. Parts used: leaves, flowers. An infusion of the herb is a useful remedy for feverish conditions and also for treating coughs, colds and influenza due to its ability to improve the removal of phlegm from the lungs and relax the bronchial muscles.
Traditionally, oregano is also regarded as an herb for the gut; it relieves flatulence and improves digestion as well as treats intestinal infections due to a strong antiseptic effect.
The essential oil of oregano has been shown to possess potent antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, primarily due to the presence of the constituents thymol and carvacrol. Some commercial oregano oil products have been used to treat a range of conditions, including respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, although substantial clinical evidence proving its efficacy is lacking.