Oregano and its relative Marjoram are very similar in appearance and culture, however Marjoram is more delicate. The difference lies in their uses in the kitchen.
The popularity of Oregano in the United States did not emerge until the soldiers of World War II returning from campaigns in Italy brought home the flavors of the pizza and tomato sauces they had grown to love while being there; which explains its nickname “The Pizza Herb”. It is perfect for tomato, egg, or cheese dishes, or garlicky food where its sharp taste is not overpowering. It is a hardy perennial in zone 5.
Marjoram on the other hand, is a more tender plant, grown as an annual in zone 5. It has smaller leaves and a milder taste. It is often used in rice dishes, butter sauces, and poultry recipes. Marjoram grows wild in the Mediterranean where is has been adored for centuries.
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.
Check out our recipe section for ideas for using Oregano and Marjoram in the kitchen. Find great Oregano recipes here!
Find out more about each variety we carry by clicking on one of the blue links below, or simply type the plant name in our search box above.