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Greek Oregano

BOTANICAL NAME:  Origanum spp. Origanum vulgare var. hirtum (o-ree-GAH-num)

COMMON NAMES:  Oregano, Wild Marjoram

FAMILY:  Labiatae
HABIT:  Perennial that is evergreen in most of the south. Best location is full sun to part shade. Height: 8 To 30 Inches. Spread: 15 To 30 Inches. Final spacing: 18 Inches. Bloom/Fruit: White to purple summer flowers followed by tiny seed. Slightly woody stems. Leaves that are oval to elliptical in shape and generally slightly hairy underneath with a aromatic scent.

CULTURE:  Very winter hardy and drought resistant. Sprawling, low-growing plant. Start from seed in the winter, set out transplants in early spring. Cuttings are easy anytime during the growing season. Oregano can be grown from seed or cuttings.  Seed propagated plants often do not come true from seed so it is suggested to obtain plants grown from cuttings.  These cuttings are taken from plants with high flavor quality.  If seeds are sown, place seeds on top of the growing media and press them into the surface.  Do not cover the seeds, as light is needed for germination.  Keep moist.  Plant in full sun location and good drainage is required for best growth and overwintering.  True oregano is marginally hardy in zone 5.  Many of the desirable types are treated as tender perennials and may need to be protected for the winter. 
PROBLEMS:  Very few.
HARVEST/STORAGE:  Harvest the leaves anytime. Stores well and is easy to dry. Best to use the leaves fresh from the garden.  Harvesting often begins just before the plants are ready to flower.  Remove the stem tips leaving 4-6 pairs of leaves on the plant in order for it to produce side shoots for additional harvesting.  This will also help to make the plant bushier and more compact.  Allowing the plant to flower will reduce or stop growth completely. It also reduces the flavor of the leaves. Hang the cut stems in a cool, dry, dark well-ventilated location.  After leaves are dry, they can be removed from the stems and stored in sealed containers. 
CULINARY USES:  Used in Greek and Italian food. Known as the pizza herb. Excellent herb tea ingredient. Used in tomato dishes and chili powder and many other foods. Chopped up oregano is also good in scrambled eggs. Oregano is used in sauces, tomato dishes, pizza, Mexican dishes salads and soups.  
MEDICINAL USES:  Oregano, Origanum vulgare, tea has been used historically to treat coughs, muscle spasms, headaches, menstrual pain, and sore joints. Essential oil of oregano has also been used as a skin antiseptic and to relieve pains, sprains, and swellings.
LANDSCAPE USES:  Greek oregano makes a good evergreen ground cover. The flowers of all oreganos are interesting.
OTHER USES:  Oregano seems to help deter insect pests.
INSIGHT:  When taking as a tea, inhale the vapors while drinking. Oregano has a stronger taste and aroma than marjoram. There is some confusion about the difference between oregano and marjoram.  To many, oregano is more of a flavor than any one individual plant. However, if you want to plant “true” oregano, Greek oregano is the one to plant.  Oregano is a loose, open plant growing from six inches to two feet tall with gray-green leaves and small purple or white flowers.  Common marjoram, often sold as wild oregano, is a hardy rampant growing perennial.  It is more of an ornamental herb as it is considered to be inferior for use as a culinary herb.

Popular Varieties

‘Profussion’ ® oregano – Very hardy, with an intense flavor.

Greek Oregano – True oregano, excellent flavor, hardy.
Other useful types but not as winter hardy.  May have to be treated as a tender perennial or brought indoors for the winter.
Syrian Oregano (Oregano maru) - Strong, spicy flavor.

Turkestan Oregano (Oregano tyttanthum) - Strong flavor, robust plant, good for indoor culture.

Hopley’s Purple Oregano – Purple-green foliage, compact, mild flavor.

Mexican Oregano – Good oregano flavor used for chili and Mexican dishes.


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