The defining herb of the Italian Mediterranean, celebrated in that unique and wonderful dish, called pizza. It is used in many dishes: tomato sauces, fried vegetables and grilled meat. Several species of genus origanum are native to the Mediterranean and all are traded as spices. The most important species of oregano are o. vulgare (pan-European), o. onites (Greece, Asia Minor) and o. heracleoticum (Italy, the Balkans, Western Asia). Greek origanon may derive from oros, “mountain” and ganousthai, “delight in” because oregano prefers higher altitudes in the Mediterranean climate. One of the 36 varieties in the mediterranean, Greek oregano is the most popular oregano for cooking because of its strong flavour and aromatic leaves.
It was originally found growing in Asia, but is now widely cultivated in Europe. It is very closely related to sweet marjoram, which is why many people know oregano to be otherwise named wild marjoram. It is part of the mint family .
Oregano comes in many varieties including Greek, Mexican, African, Spanish and Moroccan. Originally used to flavour ale and beer in Europe, Oregano is now an essential spice used in Mexican and Italian cooking. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians used Oregano to flavour fish, meats, vegetables and wines.
Today, Oregano is still very popular spice in Greece where it is used in salads, chicken and seafood dishes.
Oregano has a pungent and slightly lemony aroma
Oregano has a slightly floral and bitter taste with lemony and pungent notes
Health Benefits of oregano
All herbs contain a number of vitamins and minerals and oregano is no exception. It is a particularly good source of iron, manganese and Vitamin K, as well as Vitamins A and C and calcium. It has the ability to treat exhaustion, nervous disorders and tension when added in a cup of tea. Oregano is a used as a traditional remedy for stomach upsets, low blood pressure, whooping cough, skin irritations, toothaches, headaches and asthma.
- Contains anti-oxidant ingredients that minimize the destructive effects of free radicals.
- It has been proven to act as a very good antioxidant, even better than apples, blueberries and citrus fruits.
- Anti-fungal and antibiotic properties.
Buying and storing
You can purchase it almost everywhere today. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If you place a slightly damp paper towel in the bag with the oregano and leave some air in the bag, it may extend the life up to 1 week.
Fresh oregano may also be frozen. Wash and dry oregano sprigs. Strip whole leaves from stems and place in plastic bag loosely without crushing, but remove all air. Freeze and keep in a location where it will not get crushed. No need to thaw before using.
You can also mix chopped leaves with a small amount of water (or puree them) and freeze in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop out the cubes into a plastic bag and seal tightly. Use frozen oregano within 1 year.
To dry fresh oregano, tie sprigs into a bunch and hang in a cool, dark place with good ventilation. Once dried, seal tightly and store away from sunlight.
Ideas with cooking with oregano
One of Italy’s favourite herbs Oregano is a mild-flavored herb and can be used in tomato-based sauces as well as sprinkled over pizzas, pasta sauces, stews, grilled fish and kebabs. Oregano is lovely when used in moussaka and Greek-style dishes featuring feta, chicken or fish. Oregano harmonizes even with hot and spicy food. The cuisines of other Mediterranean countries make less use of it, but it is of some importance in Spanish, French and Greek cuisine. Oregano’s potent flavour can easily overpower the flavour of other foods so it’s best to use it sparingly at first. Oregano is almost always used in cooked dishes, as it has a somewhat biting quality when used fresh.