OREGANO ~ ORIGANUM vulgare
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.