Plant in the spring after all danger of frost has passed in a location that will receive full sun to partial shade. Space plants 12-20″ apart in dry to average soil that is well-drained. Plant height 15-24″.
Does well in containers or mixed pots. Attracts bees and butterflies.
Oregano, Italian origanum x majoricum
Italian Oregano is often called ‘the pizza herb’ for its distinct hearty flavor that pairs so well with tomato. Origanum is a family of herbs that includes a large variety of cultivars, most of which can be used for cooking, and many of which are highly ornamental. Italian Oregano is a lovely, if less showy, version which is native to the Mediterranean. It is spicy enough to be delicious in Mexican cuisine, like salsas or chili-flavored dishes, yet mild enough to be the best Oregano variety for Italian and Greek food.
Some oregano’s bloom later than others and some, like Hopley’s, Kent Beauty, Bristol and Dittany of Crete are valued for their flowers and we view them as mainly ornamental. The best culinary ones are Italian, Turkish, Greek and Hot & Spicy. Of these, Greek and Italian bloom about mid-summer through fall and have the most flavor-filled leaves right before the flowers bloom. Although the flowers are edible too, it’s usually the leaves that are used for flavoring foods. They retain their flavor better in hot dishes if added toward the end of cooking. Heating too long may result in bitterness. For the non-flowering varieties, harvest in the late spring as the oil concentrations rise steadily in the spring and then decline.
Oregano has antispasmodic, antiviral, and antiseptic properties, long known in the East. It was used to treat diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. In Mexico as well, it is used for medicinal as well as culinary uses. To use this herb medicinally, make an infusion with fresh leaves in near-boiling water. The essential oil can be used on cuts or toothaches for its numbing and cleansing properties.
To harvest: bunch stems together and hang in a cool and airy place to dry. Once dry, strip the leaves from the stem and store in an airtight container. For fresh use, snip leaves or small sections of the plant after it has reached six inches in height. Keeping Oregano clipped in this way will help the plant to bush out and encourage more foliage growth.