Synonyms: wild marjoram, origanum
Oregano, also known as wild marjoram, is an aromatic, spicy Mediterranean herb sold as fresh sprigs or chopped dried leaves. This popular herb is used to
season all types of savory dishes, especially tomato-based recipes.
Aromatic, warm and slightly bitter. Oregano largely varies in intensity: Good quality is so strong that it almost numbs the tongue, but the cultivars adapted to colder climate have often
It belongs to the Labiatae family and
bears attractive white to purplish flowers and showy bracts in summer. Oregano
tends to be quite variable when grown from seed. Leaves are green to gray-green
and may be hairy or smooth.
Many species contribute to the oregano herb of
commerce, to the extent that oregano should be considered more a flavor than a
particular species. European oregano is generally derived from O. vulgare,
but other species, particularly O. heracleoticum, Coridothymus capitatus
(syn. Thymus capitatus) and T. mastichina are also used. Mexican
oregano (sometimes known as Mexican sage) is derived mainly from Lippia
graveolens, but other Lippia species and Coleus, Lantana and Hyptis
species contribute to herb of commerce.
O. vulgare is widely distributed through
Europe to central Asia. Other species mentioned tend to have a more restricted
range in western Europe and the Mediterranean region.
Oregano herb of commerce sometimes contains flowering tops of plants, but superior quality material generally contains only leaf material. Crop harvest should be carried out before too many yellow leaves appear in the base of the crop and before flower buds appear. Multiple harvests are possible in a season.