Oregano is one of the most popular herbs in the world and is found in numerous Mediterranean dishes and also Mexican cuisine. Oregano is a perennial member of the mint family and its tiny green leaves are used either fresh or dried to add a distinctive strong and pungent flavour to an array of savoury foods.
The botanical name for Common oregano is Origanum vulgare, which comes from the Greek meaning “joy of the mountains.”
Oregano is available fresh, dried and as an oil. Oregano is packed with nutrients and can help fight free radials in the body and is also high in antioxidants. Oregano also has strong antibacterial properties and has proved to be effective against 23 types of bacteria.
Oregano is easy to grow and can be grown from seed or bought as a healthy young plant in garden centres.
How to grow oregano
- Oregano can be started from seed indoors between February- May.
- Fill a small flower pot or seed tray with compost suitable for seeds. Sprinkle a few seeds in each compartment/ pot.
- Cover the seeds with a light layer of compost.
- Water and leave the pot somewhere warm and light to germinate.
- When the seedlings are large enough to handle, they can be transferred to separate pots – about 15 cm in diameter- or after the last frost- they can be planted outdoors. The plants do best in a sheltered, sunny part of the garden which has well-drained soil. Water regularly, but do not over water as this will rot the roots quickly.
- Harvest the leaves as and when you need them – the flavour will be best before the plant flowers.
- Oregano produces small pink flowers and these can be eaten too. After the flowers have died back. Lightly trim the oregano so that it is a compact shape. It is good to add liquid fertiliser at this stage too.
- In the autumn, outside oregano will die back. Trim all the dead stems right back. Indoor oregano will continue to produce leaves all year round. Fresh oregano leaves can be frozen in nice cube trays for use throughout the year.
How to use oregano
Thinly sliced fresh oregano leaves can be tossed into salads and sprinkled over fish, chicken and meat dishes as a garnish. Fresh oregano leaves should only be added to cooking for the final 20 minutes so that their taste is preserved. Dried oregano has a milder flavour and can be added to casseroles and the secret is to crush it first as this will release more flavour. Dried oregano is a popular herb to sprinkle on top of pizza and pasta and is one of the herbs used in a bouquet garni.