Roots 'n' Shoots: Oregano: How To Grow - Herb of the Month

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Sunday, 18 March 2012

Oregano: How To Grow - Herb of the Month

Oregano stats/requirements at a glance

Ease of Raising:
5/5 – Very Easy, plant and leave
Water:
1/5 – Minimal, weekly (especially in a container)
Sun:
5/5 – Full sun
Training:
3/5 – Moderate (keep in shape)
Fertilise/Feeding:
1/5 – Minimal (at least once during the growing season)
Time to Harvest:
1/5 – Immediate (purchased a seedling) to Soon (from seed)
Frost Hardiness:
3/4 – Tender (can’t take mild frost)


Uses:
Culinary, Medicinal, Pollinator attractor & Predator sheltering
Most Problematic Nemesis:
None, some die-back
Container Plant:
Yes (preferably grown in the garden rather than container)


Origanum vulgare
Flora von Deutschland Österreich und der Schweiz 1885
Kurt Stubers Online Library

Quick intro

No pizza is complete without oregano seasoning, hence oregano is used mainly as a savoury dish herb for meats, pasta and tomato dishes. Oregano is more commonly used as a cooking herb, but has important medicinal properties.

History

Oregano is native to Europe. It was an important herb to the Greeks and Romans, who believed it to be a cure-all herb due to its strong antiseptic properties. Oregano, essentially means ‘joy of the mountain’ or ‘beauty of the mountain’, since ‘oros’ is Greek for mountain and ‘ganos’ means joy/beauty.

Science Stuff

Oregano, Origanum vulgare, belongs to that huge aromatic herb family, Lamiaceae. A quick reminder that the Lamiaceae family includes basil, marjoram, mint, sage, thyme, rosemary, savory and lemon balm. P.S, marjorams belong to the same genus as oregano, but constitute a different species – Marjorams are Origanum majorana.

Many oregano cultivars exist, that have different colours and aromas.

Golden Oregano

Growing Oregano

Oregano is a plant-and-watch-it-grow herb. It loves full sun spots and requires minimal watering and fertilisation. Oregano must not become waterlogged, which is likely punctuated by die-back of some of the tips of the oregano shoots.

They are purchased as small plants, but can be raised from seed although germination takes 10-20 days.


Pruning

Due to the spreading habit of oregano – it needs to be kept in check by pruning it from the side rather than from the top. This can be fun, since the oregano can be cut into different shapes, I keep mine round J - I am sure one can cut it into heart-shapes as well – just cause you can!

On the other hand, it will make a great ground covering plant, especially in a fragrant ornamental or herb garden – like some of Jekka McVicar’s herb gardens – makes me so jealous to see those lovely herb gardens J.
Jekka's Herb Farm in June 2011
Photo: http://jekkasherbfarm.wordpress.com/2011/06/

Other Tips

Oregano is evergreen and hence you will always have fresh oregano. It can be dried, as I know many people prefer the milder taste one gets from dried oregano. Another use for pruning cut-offs is to simply toss it back in the garden as fertiliser (good insects also shelter under the cut-offs) or you can use them as scented mulch around other plants, such as tomato J.

Medicinally, oregano should not be given to pregnant ladies and the essential oil should not be taken internally, as oregano contains very potent antiseptic oils (thymol and carvacrol).  


Harvesting & Storing

Dried oregano: Simply save the pruned leaves and dry on a paper/cloth towel indoors for a few days in a dry (airy) place. Once dry they can be stored in glass jars.

Oregano scented oil: Similar to rosemary, oregano can be heated in oil (no boiling, only smoking oil, else the oil is destroyed and become heart-unhealthy J). The oil is allowed to cool a bit (so that you retain heat as the sterilising agent, but not so hot that it will break the glass container you want to store it in J). The oregano leaves are removed and the oil is pour into a glass bottle (the leaves will become mouldy if left in the oil). This oil is especially useful for meat and pasta dishes!

Origanum vulgare
Flora Batava Volume 3 1814
Kurt Stubers Online Library
Seed Saving & Propagation

Oregano flowers attract many pollinators, including bees and butterflies. This makes it a good companion plant for vegetable gardens. The flower clusters are harvested when dry and separated before storing in a glass container. Seeds are sown in a sunny position when the soil has reached 20oC (68oF). You can raise the seedling from seed, but this takes a lot of determination as I still clearly remember how many times I nearly lost my marjoram seedlings – and they take forever to mature! Also, apparently oreganos raised from seeds do not have a lot of flavour.

They can be propagated by ‘splitting’ large plants and plating them in different locations afterwards – that is to say if you want more than one J. You can ‘split’ large oregano plants because they have a trailing/creeping habit and make roots along their growing branches as they spread sideways – they do not have one main branch which cannot be separated, like basil or rosemary.


My Oregano

Golden Oregano: This variety has a light green colour than the traditional oregano. The new leaves are bight lime green and become darker when they mature. Really good on pizza!

Golden Oregano,
Origanum vulgare


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2 comments:

  1. I am trying to grow oregano from seed and you are saying that's difficult :-(. I hope I have some luck. Why should oregano be not given to pregnant ladies?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oregano promotes shedding of the protective lining around the fetus during pregancy (aka menses) - which is deterimental to pregant women and their babies.

    ReplyDelete

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