Oregano: A Medicinal and Culinary Herb to Grow in the Garden

Most of you probably know oregano as an herb for pizza toppings and ingredient in spaghetti sauce. It is aromatic with a hint of bitterness, making it add a distinct flavor to any dish. More than this, it is also a medicinal plant, with a century-long history because of its amazing health benefits. Luckily, it is also easy to grow. There is no excuse for you not to have this plant in the garden.

Thinking of growing oregano? We’ll share with you some insights. More than cultivating and harvesting the plant; we’ll also let you know its amazing benefits for the health as well as its numerous culinary applications.

History of Oregano

Oregano LeavesOregano or wild marjoram is a native of the Mediterranean region. Like other garden herbs, it has a long history of use dating thousands of years. It is from the Lamiaceae or mint family. The name is from two Greek words – Oros, which means mountain and ganos, which means joy. With this, the name literally translates to the joy of the mountains, which is pretty much accurate as it is from the mountainside of Mediterranean countries, such as Italy and Greece.

The Greeks are the first ones to use oregano in their daily lives. Greek mythology credits Aphrodite as the inventor of this herb. Back then, it is a symbol of happiness, which explains its use in wedding ceremonies. During weddings, couples are given wreaths to signify happiness. In the same way, they also use oregano to honor the dead, believing that it will give them peace.

After conquering Greece, the Romans were also able to discover the wonders of oregano. Ease of cultivation is one of the reasons why they loved the herb and made it spread all throughout Europe and North Africa.

China is another country where the use of oregano was prevalent in the Middle Ages. Here, the use of oregano is almost exclusive to alternative medicine. Chinese doctors recognize the ability of the herb to treat itchiness, jaundice, vomiting, and diarrhea, among other health problems.

In the United States, meanwhile, the use of Oregano became popular only after the World War II. After the Italian Campaign, American soldiers discovered the herb, and they brought it in the US.

All throughout history and in different civilizations, there is widespread use of oregano for culinary and medicinal purposes. There are also interesting applications, such as for giving psychic dreams and letting go of a beloved.

Different Types

Oregano is intriguing because of its unique flavor and fragrance. In the same way, it is also confusing for some people because of its different varieties, each with its unique flavor profile and physical characteristics.

Origanum Vulgare is an aggressive and perennial shrub. The plant reaches a height of up to 24 inches. The leaves, on the other hand, are about an inch in length. It grows a purple flower. Its leaves, however, are not as flavorful as other varieties.

Origanum Vulgare

With its pungent flavor, this is the most common in many gardens and grocery stores. It is aromatic and flavorful, making it perfect for tasty sauces. The high phenolic acid is the one that is responsible for the strength of its flavor. Its leaves are fuzzy and they grow white flowers. The spread of the plant is not as aggressive as the common oregano.

Greek Oregano

Taste-wise, this type of oregano has a citrusy flavor. The hint of lime makes it the perfect complement for chilies. It has beautiful flowers, which is why it is usually an ornamental plant in the garden. Crushing the leaves is the best way to maximize its flavor.

Mexican Oregano

This variant comes with white flowers and light-green leaves. Unlike other variants, it grows in an upward position and it is a non-spreading plant. Its flavor and aroma are a combination of what you can expect from Greek and common oregano.

Italian Oregano

This is an herbaceous plant that belongs to the ornamental varieties of oregano. This is more of a decorative plant in the garden than a culinary herb. It has lavender flowers and it trails, making it an excellent addition to your landscape.

Hopflower Oregano

Health Benefits

Since the ancient times, the cultivation of oregano is popular because of its many benefits for the health, including the following:

  • Bone Health: Overtime, our bones will become weak, which is one of the most common signs of aging. It makes the body weak because of the absence of the support that it needs. With this, oregano is promising because it contains Vitamin K, calcium, manganese, and iron, which are all critical for the improvement of bone health.
  • Cancer Prevention: As one of the leading causes of death globally, there is a continuous search for the best ways to prevent cancer. Oregano is one of the natural alternatives Specifically in patients with breast cancer; it has a component that aids in the prevention of the progression of the cancer cells.
  • Menstrual Cramps: Oregano also has the reputation as an excellent natural pain relief, especially for those experiencing menstrual cramps. If you are prone to menstrual pain every time, you have a period, chewing fresh leaves will help. Drinking oregano tea also provides immediate relief.
  • Digestive: If you are suffering from digestive problems, oregano will also offer the perfect solution. Its leaves appear small, but it has an abundance of fiber, making it helpful for the digestive tract. It allows the smooth movement of the foods in your digestive tract while also improving the quality if your stool.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Oregano has Omega-3 fatty acids that help to improve the level of cholesterol in the body, which is vital to improving the health of your heart. It also lessens inflammation, minimizing the possibility of suffering from stroke and heart attack.
  • Detoxification: To have a healthier body, it is necessary to get rid of the toxins that affect the health in more ways than one. It has organic compounds and minerals that are necessary for a detox. It also helps to speed up the elimination of toxins in your liver.
  • Immune System Boost: Oregano is also effective in enhancing the immune system, lessening the tendency that you will suffer from common illnesses, such as colds, cough, and flu. It has antioxidants, such as rosmarinic acid, which reduces oxidative stress.
  • Respiratory Problems: It is also a natural expectorant, which lessens mucus in the airways, making it possible for you to breathe easily. This is an effective cure for the inflammation of the throat and lungs. Even for people who have asthma, oregano also helps.
  • Energy: This aromatic herb also provides rejuvenation to the body when you are feeling down. One compound responsible for this benefit is Vitamin B, which helps improve circulation to energize the body.
  • Skin Health: This is because of the high content of antioxidant in the leaves of oregano. It prevents the damages that are due to the free radicals. It helps to keep the skin looking younger and fresher, even if you are already aging.
  • Weight Management: It is one benefit of oregano that many people are not familiar with. As a high source of fiber, it helps in improving digestion. Also, it does not contain any calorie. It also has an active compound that dissolves fat.

Culinary and Other Uses

In the kitchen and at home, oregano also has several uses, which include the following:

  • Pizza and Pasta: While there are plenty of culinary applications for oregano, there is perhaps nothing that is more popular as using it as toppings for pizzas and as a main ingredient in a spaghetti sauce. For the best flavor, mix it with basil and tomatoes.
  • Marinade: Planning a barbecue party anytime soon? Use oregano to prepare a delicious marinade for your meat, such as lamb and beef. Simply mix oregano, parsley, thyme, basil, garlic, onion, vinegar, and olive oil.
  • Bread: This is one of the simplest ways to use oregano. You can chop it and mix it with bread when baking. Alternatively, you can also top your toasted bread with provolone cheese and strips of oregano. Grill it for about five minutes and enjoy.
  • Cocktails: The distinct flavor of oregano makes it an excellent addition to classic cocktail recipes. An easy way to do this is to mix gin, lemon juice, and oregano. This makes a good drink for the summer months because of its refreshing taste.
Homemade Pizza

Homemade Pizza with Oregano

How to Grow Oregano

Planting oregano at home does not require too much effort on your end. From cultivation to harvesting, as long as you know how to do things right, it is guaranteed that you will reap a high level of success.

How to Plant

Cultivating oregano is possible either through its seeds or cuttings. The latter is a better choice if you already have a healthy plant at home as it will allow it to grow quickly. If growing seeds, keep in mind that around ¼ of it won’t survive, so you might want to consider planting more.

After deciding whether to plant seeds or clippings, the next thing to do is select the best planting location. Ideally, it should be in a place that receives full sun or even a partial shade. For the soil, the pH level should be ideally anywhere from 6.5 to 7. Like other herbs, they do not really like fertilizer, so it is not necessary to use such. If you do not have a garden, consider yourself lucky. Oregano also thrives well indoors and even in containers. The right timing is also a critical factor to consider. As experts recommend, do it just about a month and a half following the last frost. Lastly, see to it that the ground temperature is not lower than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is also important to space out the plant evenly. This will provide enough room for it to grow through the years. Depending on the specific variety of oregano that you have, it usually grows at a width of 18 inches and height of two feet. When planting, it is good to maintain at least 10 inches of space in between plant.

How to Harvest

Harvesting oregano is a simple task. It is best to do so once the stem reaches a height of at least four inches, which is an indication of the maturity of the plant. Just cut the stems that extend all the way to the ground. Be careful to not cut the whole plant to encourage fuller growth.

Harvest Oregano

Just Cut the Stems that Extend All the Way to the Ground

After harvesting, use the leaves while they are fresh, especially for culinary applications. In some instances, you can also freeze them, especially if you intend to keep it for the long-term. Drying the leaves is also a good idea. With this, gather the oregano and bundle them, but make sure that they are not too dense. Hang the bundles and give it time to dry. Keep it out from the direct heat of the sun. Store the leaves in an airtight container to preserve its flavor and aroma.

How to Maintain

You do not need to exert too much effort in maintaining this herb. One thing you should do is regular trimming. When it reaches four inches, trim the plant, but do this only lightly. Doing this will encourage a denser growth. Over-trimming, on the other hand, might cause the plant to die.

Unlike other herbs, you do not need to water too much. However, when you notice that the soil is too dry, this is an obvious indication that you should water. Do this lightly. If you water too much, it might remain in the center and can encourage root rot. If you are planting in pots, make sure as well that there is proper drainage.

It is possible for oregano to be damaged by pests, although you can avoid this is you properly take care of the plant. Aphids and spider mites can appear. Also, the plant can experience root rot. A well-drained soil is one good way to avoid the problem. Take out any leaf with visible damage to avoid the problem from spreading.

Conclusion

Oregano is more than just an aromatic herb you can use in pizza or spaghetti. It is a wonderful plant that delivers a wide array of benefits for the health. The best thing is that growing it in the garden is pretty much a straightforward process. There is no need to exert too much effort, yet you will have the assurance that it will thrive.

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