by Gini Sage
The name oregano is from the Greek oros ganos meaning ‘joy of the mountain’, a reference to the cheerful appearance and smell of the flowering plant on Greek hillsides. Oregano is also known as wild marjoram and as sweet marjoram. Although there are a multitude of uses for wild oregano as a medicinal herb, its most common use today is culinary. Oregano is used both dried and fresh, and gives pizza and spaghetti sauces their characteristic flavour. Italian oregano is a peppery, pungent tasting herb, but the further the north it is cultivated, the milder the flavouring. Oregano also gives a strong flavour to bean casseroles, stews, and sauces based on tomato or aubergines.
Oregano is native to Europe and the Middle East. It was collected in Italy and introduced and naturalized in the North Eastern United States and Canada. It is a aromatic perennial, frequently bushy, with erect, hairy and woody stems to 2 feet tall. It grows best in poor soils, preferring drier, well drained sites in full sun. It should be cut back in the fall or early spring, as the young leaves have the most flavour.
Article originally published in the Uxbridge Horticultural Society Newsletter, November 2007