Oregano Marjoram

The early Greeks used leaves to make a poultice for sore muscles. Ancient Romans used oregano poultices for scorpion and spider bites. In Colonial times, oregano tea was used to treat coughs and asthma. Oregano was not really used in cooking in America until after World War II when many American soldiers had become accustomed to it as they traveled overseas. One of my favorite herbs, both in the garden and in the kitchen. It is also the most confusing. In some cases it is difficult to find nursery people that understand the difference. Given the fact that all Marjorams are Oreganos, since the genus name for both is origanum, but not all oreganos are marjorams. Sweet Marjoram (O. majorana) - Also known as Knotted Marjoram or Wurstkraut, is from Europe. This half-hardy perennial can be grown as an annual in regions where winters are cold. Sweet Marjoram is a little gray-green plant that will grow up to a foot high if grown as an annual and up to 2 feet high as a perennial.

Branches that hang down will take root and grow to form a loose, airy clump. The small, rounded leaves have a unique sweet scent when crushed. They are used as flavoring, in sachets and as a source of oil in perfume. Sweet Marjoram produces unnoticeable white flowers. Oregano (O. vulgare) is a perennial that can grow from 12 to 24 inches high and bears purple or pink flowers, which look pretty in dried or fresh arrangements. The leaves, however, have very little flavor. The hybrid "Aurea" has golden leaves. O. onites (Italian Oregano; Pot Marjoram) is a tender perennial with small leaves. The flowering stems grow up to 18 inches high. It has a delicate, warm flavor and is the most popular Oregano for Italian foods. O. heracleoticum (Greek Oregano; Winter Marjoram) has coarse, ovate, fuzzy leaves and grows up to 18 inches high in bloom. It has a strong, earthy fragrance and is the most flavorful. Hardiness varies among the different types, but all are perennial. Spanish Oregano (O. virens) is a half-hardy perennial with a strong flavor. It grows taller than the others and has round, bright apple-green leaves.

Despite the heavy association of oregano with Italy, it is likely that oregano originated in Greece. Ancient Greeks used to let their cattle graze on fields of oregano, in the belief that it produced tastier meat. Even the name Oregano comes from the Greek, meaning "joy of the mountain." Marjoram also enjoys a long and favorable history. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans would crown bridal couples with wreaths of marjoram to symbolize love, honor and happiness. Over the years Marjoram has been used as a remedy to aid digestion. Marjoram and Oregano continue to be used as a steam inhalant to clear the sinuses and relieve laryngitis. European singers have been known to preserve their voices with marjoram tea sweetened with honey. Dried leaves were used in little pillows to aid sleep and were used in ale brewing to provide a bitter flavor. It was also used as a strewing herb, dye plant and as a furniture polish. Medicinally it was used to; ease rheumatic pains, toothache, headaches, indigestion,  exhaustion, coughs, irritability and jaundice. It was also used to prevent seasickness and as a bath tonic. Perfume was once made from the roots of this plant and was considered a good, long lasting scent.

Although oregano is considered to be a perennial herb, marjoram's more delicate character has it classified as a summer annual in most regions. Oregano is hardy in plant climate zones 4 through 10d. Oregano grows in average, well-drained soil that is on the alkaline side. It likes full sun, although very drought tolerant, it will benefit from irrigation, provided the roots do not become water logged. It is best to start your own plant with a cutting of an Oregano plant you know has a flavor you like since plants grown from seeds have many different flavors. Depending on the kind of oregano you have, plants can grow from 1 to 2 feet tall. The stems of an Oregano plant are square and hairy so we mainly use the leaves for flavoring foods. You can start picking leaves to use in cooking when plants get 6 inches tall. Marjoram prefers to be in soil that is moist whereas oregano prefers drier conditions. Growing them in pots works well, given plenty of light. Rosemary, sage and thyme work well together in pots along with oregano -- they all like the same moisture level, and they are often used together in cooking. Oregano grows very easily from cuttings or plant division at any time of the year. Rooting hormone is generally not required. The plants layer naturally in the garden and quickly cover the ground surface. Keep the Oregano trimmed to prevent it from blooming and encourage leaf production. Or let it flower to attract bees to the garden. Mulch the plants to keep the foliage clean.

Marjoram leaves are best used fresh, as their flavor is sweeter and milder. For this reason it is also best to add them at the last moment when you use them for cooking. Marjoram has a slightly minty, citrusy taste. Use marjoram's fresh taste to enhance salad dressings, seafood sauces, soups, and poultry. A chicken that has been rubbed with garlic, salt, course black pepper and marjoram, then grilled makes a quick and delectable summer treat -- one of my favorites. Marjoram's flavor also works well with cheese, tomato, bean or egg dishes. Marjoram is most often used in recipes of French or English origin, whereas oregano's more robust flavor is often called for in the recipes of Italian, Greek, North African and Mexican cuisines. Oregano's pungent, spicy flavor 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 flavor deepens and melds flavors of soups and sauces without overwhelming the dish. Because it retains its flavor 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. To harvest oregano, trim all branches, leaving only the lowest set of leaves. The plant will leaf out again and send up new shoots within 2 weeks, providing another harvest or perhaps even a third. Foliage tastes sweeter when clipped before flowers begin to develop. Essential oils are greatest just before the plant blooms. To dry, hang the stems upside-down in a dark, dry place. Once dried, discard the stems and store the leaves in airtight, light-tight containers.

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Children get very excited when they see things grow. Try this indoor seed-starting project. Take the lid off of a glass jar and line it with a damp paper towel. Put a few zucchini seeds in between the glass and the towel. Replace the lid and put the jar somewhere safe, like on the kitchen counter. Make sure to keep the towel moist and in a few days have the child check the jar. Watch their eyes light up with amazement when they look into the jar and see the seeds, burst open and growing. Starting seeds in the house can give them a head start in their garden.

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The average toad will eat 50-100 insects every night - that's 10,000 to 20,000 insects throughout a gardening season. They will help eliminate garden pests such as flies, grubs, slugs, cutworms, grasshoppers, and anything else they are fast enough to catch. You can encourage toads to take up residence in your garden by providing shelter and water, and by not using pesticides that hurt your warty allies.

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Brandie

" Every rose is an autograph from the hand of God on his world about us. He has inscribed his thoughts in these marvelous hieroglyphics which sense and science have, these many thousand years, been seeking to understand."

 

 

 
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