Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The real Origano di Montagna. . . . . . . . . . .

A flowering plant in the mint family(Lamiaceae). Native to temperate western and southwestern Eurasia and the Mediterranean region. Oregano is a perennial herb (although grown as an annual in colder climates as it often does not survive the winter), growing 20-80 cm tall with opposite leaves. Flowers are purple and
produced in erect spikes. Sometimes called wild marjoram.

As we wandered through the charming alleys of Sicilian towns, stopping
 to glance at little shops and their offerings, there were many dried herbs
 bagged and bunched for sale. . . . . . oregano was definitely a favorite.
My own bunch of sweet smelling dried oregano is now on the dining room 
table both as a decoration and also to be used in many Italian dishes 
over the summer months. Have to say it smells and tastes so much
better than the contents of that little glass jar in the kitchen!

There are many subspecies of Oregano each with their unique flavor. 
Tastes range from spicy or astringent to more complicated and sweet.
Sicilian oregano is usually sweet and spicy with little bitterness, and is
prized for flavor and compatibility with various recipes and sauces.
Leaves are more flavorful when dried than fresh, warm and aromatic.

Taormina, Sicily - May 2017

Oregano's most prominent modern use is as the staple herb of Italian-American cuisine.
Its popularity in the US began when soldiers returning from World War II brought back
 with them a taste for the "pizza herb" which had probably been eaten in southern Italy for
 centuries. It is eaten with roasted, fried or grilled vegetables, meat and fish, and combines
 well with spicy foods popular in southern Italy. . . . . . . and of course in pasta sauces.

Italian cooks love their food full of flavors from the countryside and, although
 fresh herbs are often best, dried versions have to be used when they are
 out of season. Perhaps I try to keep my dried herbs purchased from grocery
 stores far too long - you know how they eventually lose their flavor and turn
 into dust in those jars - probably adding little of the original brisk fresh taste.

Do you enjoy using herbs when you cook?
Are you growing fresh herbs this spring?
My annual basil, chives, fennel and parsley are all coming along in large pots -
and my perennial rosemary bushes (2) are now huge and in fact need to be
pruned way back.
I so love walking into the garden and clipping a few leaves to add to 
the evening meal - today it will be basil for the tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.



  1. It is my fond hope to plant herbs for my "kitchen" garden. This amounts to a railing box beside my main door. Love being able to pop out there for fresh herbs. It's going to have to stop raining long enough to get it accomplished.

    It must have smelled so lovely walking in the markets where these herbs are being sold. I am glad that the US soldiers came home from war with something good. My family has a few stories about their introduction to Italian cuisine.

  2. What is Mediterranean food without herbs.... Your photos are so lovely, I could almost smell yours on your table. I'm sure you enjoyed wandering down those narrow streets. I've just bought a plant in a tiny pot for my forthcoming herb garden.

  3. The one herb I like better dried that fresh is oregano! I am not growing it this year, but next year it will be in my garden in my new home. Currently growing in pots here at the rental are basil, rosemary, parsley, thyme and chives, along with a sad tomato plant.

  4. Herbs are everything. Wonderful photos, warm greetings!

  5. We always must have oregano in our herb garden. I most often survives winter. I have even chipped away ice to pick it. Oh the market places in Europe are so beautiful. That pasta is just wonderful.

  6. First off, that step-back. Oh.my.word. 'Gorgeous' doesn't cover it.
    Oregano is a favorite of mine used in sauces and stir-fry's. And, I just realized I am not growing it so I should fix that. I have Rosemary, Thyme, Basil and Parsley in pots. We have so much rain that they need some growing time and wait anxiously for the sun. Just like the cats...and me.
    I loved this post, Mary, having a peak inside your lovely dining-room.

  7. The fragrance that wafts up from such a market would be heavenly. I love going out and clipping fresh herbs from the garden for adding flavour to dishes. I clipped back my wildly overgrown rosemary bush recently and she is looking like a shorn sheep. I have thyme, sage, mint, lemon balm, oregano, and chives growing, and a pot of basil indoors that will soon move out. Basil is the only herb of the ones I've mentioned that won't survive the winter.

  8. As I don't have my own garden here, there are only a few potted herbs on my kitchen windowsill: mint (mostly to be used in cocktails), basil (salads, caprese, omelettes and sauces) and chives (salads, mostly).
    The scent of oregano always makes me hungry - I love it!!

  9. Dear Mary, Love your photos of the local market places. That is one of my favorite pastimes...to wander amongst the produce and herb stalls.
    I grow many herbs in my garden. I freeze and dry many of them for winter months. My very special and must have herb is lots of Basil. We make copious amounts of Pesto every year. Pesto makes it possible to have a perfect meal in minutes.

  10. Earlier this week I gave my two oregano plants a haircut and dried the leaves in a low temp oven. The smell throughout the house was reminiscent of an Italian restaurant. :). How awesome it must have been to see it in it's native country. Didn't know that about the way it found it's way to America. How interesting.
    My herb garden consists of basil, rosemary, thyme, garlic chives, oregano, dill and parsley and chocolate mint. I love cooking and baking with fresh from the garden herbs.

  11. The idea of walking into a garden and clipping a few leaves to add to the evening meal sounds so right, so the way it should be! Whist we don't have any garden herbs, I think Alex is growing some on our window sill so that is nice. I love herbs though, especially Oregano and Thyme which I often use for egg dishes. So, where you do get your fresh dried Oregano, unless it's all from your garden, that is?

    The markets photos are so inviting - I want to jump right in there and be thrown back to what I imagine is a simpler time and palce but probably equally fraught with stresses and whatnot.


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