Is It Oregano?

Is It Oregano?
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True Greek oregano, which has the authentic taste that is used in dishes calling for oregano is sometime elusive. You need to grow Origanum vulgare subspecies hirtum (Origanum heracleoticum) which has small white flowers. It's important to ask question if something is simply labeled "oregano". Beware of descriptions that emphasize scent and ornamental use but don't discuss flavor. If the flowers are pinkish in color then chances are you have wild marjoram.
Over the years I've tried to grow Greek oregano and always ended up with the wild marjoram. The flowers are wonderful for wreaths and arrangements but the flavor is not the same. By the way, if you let it flower, harvest them all, or the seed will spread and you'll have an over abundance of the herb. Though it's not as flavorful, I don't waste it. I use it in herbal vinegars, salts and crafts. I tried an variegated oregano this year, which is pretty, but again, lacking the flavor.

Two other interesting plants that are often labeled oregano can be used in recipes as well.

Mexican Oregano-Lippia graveolens is often labeled as an oregano, though it's not. It's a tender perennial and will not survive most winters. There are also several other plants labeled Mexican oregano, which are not actually in the oregano family. Pinch leaves and go with your nose if you want to try one of these.

Cuban oregano, which is Coleus ambionicus botanically, has thick, fleshy leaves and is similar to a spicy version of oregano.

By now, regardless of the variety you are growing, you should have plenty of oregano to harvest. You can cut it down to the lowest set of leaves and dry bunches in a dry, airy location out of the sun. Cut off any blemished or yellowed leaves. When dry, store in bottles away from heat and light. Remember, oregano needs a lot of sun and a dry location, so don't over water.

Some cooks say you can interchange oregano and marjoram, some have uses for each. I use what I have on hand.

Oregano can be used fresh with sautéed zucchini and onions, or is a welcome addition along with cilantro to black beans. For a simple elegant appetizer, carefully grill thick slices of provolone cheese that have been sprinkled with oregano. When the cheese is warmed and starts to melt spread on crusty fresh bread with a butter knife. Add oregano to your fresh salsa recipes, or any Mexican dishes as well as Italian recipes. The leaves can be dried on the stem and crumbled into jars, or frozen in individual bags, then used as fresh.

One oregano plant that is put in full sun, fairly dry soil and harvested frequently will supply all that you need. It does grow quickly and spread, but that will allow you to pot up some oregano for your windowsill and for your friends!

Tomatoes With Feta and Oregano


4 firm-ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper

2 Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat broiler. Lightly oil a baking sheet and place tomato slices in a single layer. Drizzle slices with oil and season with salt and pepper. Top with oregano leaves and feta. Place tomatoes under the broiler and cook until they soften a bit and the cheese is lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Potato Wedges With Oregano-Garlic Butter


3 large baking potatoes

3 tbsp. olive oil

Oregano-Garlic Butter:

5 tbsp. butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

salt and pepper

Cook potatoes in boiling water for 20 minutes. Cool and drain. Brush potatoes with olive oil. Set aside and make the butter by melting in a pan over low heat. When the butter foams, add garlic and oregano. Cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour butter over the potato slices. Season with salt and pepper. NOTE: I scrub potatoes and leave the skin on, but you can remove skins.

Swiss Chard with Garlic and Oregano


10 cups coarsely chopped Swiss Chard

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1/4 teaspoon dried

black pepper

2 tsp. red wine vinegar

Rinse chard with cold water, drain well. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute or until slightly golden. Add chard. Cover and cook 1 minute or until chard begins to wilt. Stir in the oregano and season with pepper. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in vinegar. Makes about 2 servings

Chicken Soulvaki


1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup herb vinegar (or wine vinegar)

1/4 cup red wine

1 tsp. minced garlic

2 tablespoon fresh, minced oregano

3 whole boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1" cubes

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a glass baking dish, or a resealable plastic bag. Add chicken and marinate for at least 3 hours. Remove from marinade and thread the chicken on skewers. Bring marinade just to a boil in a saucepan. Place chicken on grill and brush with marinade as you turn the skewers. Grill for a total of about 15 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink. Serve with a salad and pita bread. NOTES: You can also thread the chicken along with cherry tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms if you wish.

Roasted Greek Chicken


2 1/2 to 3 pound chicken, cut in pieces

4 to 5 medium potatoes

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

Juice of one lemon

2 Tbsp. dried oregano or 3-4 Tbsp. fresh, minced

Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash chicken and pat dry. Cube the potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Place the chicken and potatoes in a roasting pan; salt and pepper to season. Mix together the oil and butter, then add lemon juice. Baste chicken and potatoes with this mixture. Sprinkle lightly with oregano. Pour remaining lemon-butter in pan. Cover pan securely with foil. Bake at 350°F for 1-1/2 hours. Do not uncover during this time. Increase temperature to 400°F and remove foil from pan. Bake another 15 minutes or until chicken and potatoes are golden brown. Serves 4.

Lemon Oregano Chicken


2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1/3 cup oil

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup fresh chopped oregano

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/2 dry white wine, (can substitute water)

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast

Combine garlic, oil, zest and juice, oregano, parsley,salt, pepper and wine or water in a 13x9x2 baking dish. Place chicken in pan. Turn to coat several times, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Remove from marinade, and grill or broil about 4 inches from the heat. Turn frequently until cooked through and no longer pink. Serves 4-6

More savory marinade recipes:


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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