2.29 Marjoram and Oregano.

Photo: Origanum majorana 4. Latin names:
Origanum majorana (former: Majorana hortensis) - sweet marjoram, marjoram
Origanum vulgare
- oregano or wild marjoram
Origanum onites -
pot Marjoram
Origanum heracleoticum
- winter marjoram
Origanum dictamnus
- dittany of Crete, hop marjoram
Coleus amboinicus (Plectranthus amboinicus)
- Cuban oregano
Mexican oregano: several plants, eg. Poliomintha longiflora, Lippia graveolens, and Monarda fistulosa var. menthifolia

Also see 2.29.4, Cuban oregano, and 2.29.4, Mexican oregano.

2.29.1 Growing marjoram and oregano

From Jennifer A. Cabbage <fxjac.camelot.acf-lab.alaska.edu>:
Marjoram grows as an annual up to two feet tall in most parts of the United States due to climate, but it is a perennial in its native north Africa, Portugal, and southwest Asia.

Marjoram prefers a light, fairly rich, well-drained, slightly alkaline soil, with a pH from 7 to 8. It like full sun.

Marjoram is easily grown from seed that is sown in spring, or by cuttings taken in the summer. It can be induced to be perennial by overwintering indoors in pots. When grown indoors it has a tendency to trail that makes it good for hanging baskets. Marjoram makes a good companion plant for eggplant, pumpkin and zucchini.

The genus Origanum contains about 20 species, of which five are common in herb gardens. Oregano (O. vulgare) is a perennial, native to Asia, Europe, and northern Africa. Pot marjoram (O. onites) is a close relative of sweet marjoram that is native to the Mediterranean, and O. heracleoticum is native to southeast Europe.

Oregano grows to 2.5 feet tall, and flowers from late July until September. It is a sprawling herb and is therefore not well suited for growing indoors. Pot marjoram grows to two feet tall, and neither it nor dittany of Crete are hardy in cold climates. Dittany of Crete grows to one foot tall, blooms in summer or autumn, and like Pot marjoram, grows as an annual in cold climates. Dittany of Crete grows well indoors due to its small size and its flavor is very similar to that of common oregano.

Oregano likes light, well-drained, slightly alkaline soil with full sun. Rich, moist soil makes the aroma and flavor of oregano weak.

Oregano can be grown from seeds, stem cuttings, or root divisions, but seeds are sometimes slow to germinate. Also, plants grown from seed may not be true to the flavor of the parent plant, or may even be flavorless. Oregano makes a good companion plant for cauliflower but should not be planted with broccoli or cabbage.

2.29.2 Harvesting marjoram and oregano

From Jennifer A. Cabbage <fxjac.camelot.acf-lab.alaska.edu>:
Marjoram: harvest the leaves as soon as blooming begins. They dry easily and can be frozen, but some people believe that drying the leaves actually improves the flavor, making it sweeter and more aromatic. Its flavor when fresh is closer to that of oregano.

Harvest oregano leaves as plants begin to bloom.

2.29.3 Using / preserving marjoram and oregano

From Jennifer A. Cabbage <fxjac.camelot.acf-lab.alaska.edu>:
Marjoram is great in tomato dishes, and with meats, onions, brussel sprouts, or mushrooms.

Oregano is good with potato salad, fowl stuffing, peas, soups, scrambled eggs, omelets, tomato dishes, meats, beans, deviled eggs, spaghetti, chili, hamburgers and pizza. It is essential to Italian, Spanish, and Mexican dishes, and combines well with basil.

Chicken Corn Soup with marjoram

2 cups chicken stock
2 cups chopped potatoes
2 cups fresh corn kernels
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
½ cup finely chopped fresh marjoram
salt and pepper

Bring stock to a boil, add potatoes, cover, cook until potatoes are barely tender. Add corn and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in chicken and marjoram, add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about another 10 minutes.

2.29.4 Which oregano do you have?

From: Chris McElrath <Mcmariah.AOL.COM>:
The word oregano comes from the Greek "oro" meaning mountain and "ganos" meaning joy. The generic stuff that nurseries sell is Origanum vulgare which is attractive, but of little culinary value. Many of you may have noticed that your oregano plants don't have much flavor. True greek oregano is the same as what is often called wild marjoram. In fact, I usually use marjoram in place of oregano in my recipes. Many nurseries interchange the labels freely. Greeks felt that the sweet smell was created by Aphrodite as a symbol of happiness. Bridal couples were crowned with it and it was placed on tombs to give peace to the departed.
O. vulgare -- basic oregano, spreads by rhizomes, grows wild in England
O. onites is an upright plant -- called pot marjoram
O. heracleoticum -- winter marjoram, peppery and volatile flavor

Cuban oregano:

From: Ann McCormick <McCORMICK9.AOL.COM>
>I have recently purchased some Cuban oregano, with botanical name of "Coleus ambionicus". It has thick, almost fleshy leaves that are 1 to 2 inches long with a somewhat fuzzy surface. It has a wonderful fragrance that reminds me of oregano with a kick.
>The garden shop owner told me she knew very little about it other that some of her customers use it in cooking and that it is should be grown like an annual here (Zone 6, Central New Jersey). From the botanical name (and its appearance) it is obviously not a true oregano. Have any of you grown this plant? Any information would be appreciated.

From: Rastapoodle.newsguy.com (Rastapoodle)
It is Plectranthus, a tropical substitute for Oregano. It is totally safe, and very pungent, so a little goes a long way. Richters Herb in Canada should sell it. Here in Miami, it's almost a weed, as all of the Caribbean and Latin American residents treasure it. It grows easily from cuttings, prefers sun/semi-shade during the hottest part of the day.

From: sotrembi.saims.skidmore.edu (stephen otrembiak)
>Someone just told me they purchased "cuban oregano" they wanted to know more about this intriguing plant. Apparently it is a succulent and has a very strong oregano flavor. He thought it was a strange plant and is reluctant to use it for culinary purposes.
>If anyone has more info on this plant or knows where it can be purchased I would appreciate the info.

From: weed <avril_tolley.berlex.com>
I don't know where you would get it in New York, Steve. Here in Northern California, it is sold in the herb section, usually in 4-inch pots. It's hairy, which is why I think you wouldn't want to use it in cooking. It's very pungent, though, great smell. There are enough good oreganos for cooking, I like to leave the really ornamental ones for growing. This plant needs *excellent* drainage, full sun and not too much water or it will bite the dust. I have one growing in a pot, and one growing in an old sandbox I'm turning into a rock garden. You can just break off a stem and put it in a pot for a new plant. I've given lots of them to people. I would bet that it's tender, and you'd have to bring it indoors in winter (we don't get cold enough here for me to find out). I had one growing on the bright, hot windowsill in my kitchen for a long time before planting it out, so that works, too.

From: mouvedre.ix.netcom.com (BETH W SPROW)
Cuban oregano is an excellent plant. I've used it in cooking and it is wonderful. Especially in salsas with tomatillos, tomatoes peppers etc.
As a house plant its great. It needs practically no watering and its varigated with cream around the edge of creamy green leaves.

From: ae.meer.net (Arthur Evans)
Here's one shot in the dark ... In The Art of Mexican Cooking, Diana Kennedy describes the various kinds of oregano used in regional Mexican cooking (there are apparently at least 13 kinds), including the following:
"There is [...] a large, juicy-leaved oregano grown and used fresh in the Yucatan Peninsula and Tabasco, mostly with fish. It is Coleus amboinicus (I have also seen it growing in Hawaii) and it is referred to in Tabasco as oreganon."
Juicy-leaved could mean succulent, and something that grows in the Yucatan might well grow in Cuba ...

Mexican Oregano:

From: Chris McElrath <Mcmariah.AOL.COM>
Mexican oregano is a general name for several plants, all of which have a strong oregano flavor: Poliomintha longiflora, Lippia graveolens, and Monarda fistulosa var. menthifolia. These are probably the most common but there are others.
So, it comes down to: Mexican oregano is a common name which is used for several different species that grow in the southwestern US and Mexico. If you can find one, it probably has more flavor than the ubiquitous O. vulgare.