Oregano (Origanum), also called Dost, Origano or Wild Marjoram, is a genus from the family of labiates (Lamiaceae) and originates from Southern Europe, from where the plant spread to the whole of Europe. Translated from Greek Oregano means “Bergwonne”. In the closer relationship, the oregano counts to the type Dost, that includes 44 types. One species of this genus is the marjoram (Origanum majorana).
Due to its botanical name Origanum majorana, marjoram is often confused with oregano (Origanum vulgare). Both belong to the genus Dost (Origanum). While the oregano is a perennial perennial, the marjoram, which needs warmth, has to be sown every year. Like all Origanum species, marjoram loves full sun and calcareous, permeable, nutrient-rich soil. The best time to harvest marjoram is before it blooms in June. The main difference between oregano and marjoram can be found in its use in the kitchen: while oregano is considered a typical pizza spice, marjoram refines meat, fish, poultry, stews and sausages, which is why it is popularly called “sausage cabbage”. Oregano can be planted in herb beds as well as in pots and tubs.
Appearance and growth
Oregano is a perennial medicinal and aromatic herb and sprouts every year from a richly branched rootstock. The 40 to 60 centimeter high, square and upright stems are slightly woody at the bottom. The leaves are ovoid to elongated and slightly hairy. They are about three centimeters long, either with entire margins or weakly notched. From July to September Oregano bears pink to purple flowers in umbellate or panicle-like inflorescences. At the upper edge, they carry a white-haired calyx.
Location and soil
Oregano thrives in very sunny and warm locations – preferably in a full sun bed or at the highest point of the herb spiral. The soil should be light, permeable and lean.
Planting and care
From April, the seed is sown directly outside at 20 degrees Celsius. Oregano can be preferred on the windowsill as early as mid-February. Here the seeds are sown in growing trays or small pots, lightly pressed on and always kept slightly moist. After two to four weeks, the young plants can enter the bed. However, it is a good idea to buy pre-cultivated young plants with oregano because oregano spreads quickly, can be easily reproduced later by division and one or two plants are sufficient for domestic use anyway. A soil that is only moderately supplied with nutrients is decisive for a high proportion of essential oils. The demand is already covered by a compost supply in spring – otherwise oregano is relatively undemanding. In rough locations you should cover the oregano with brushwood in winter. As older plants tend to lignify, regular pruning in early spring is important. If you cut the shrubs about a hand’s width above the ground, they will grow compact again and remain nicely dense.
Oregano is ideal for the rock garden and is particularly effective at the top of the herb spiral. Besides, with its fine flowers it is also an ornament in the garden and a valuable butterfly and bee pasture.
Harvesting and recycling
The fresh leaves and shoot tips can be harvested continuously. While most herbs are harvested just before flowering, for a larger harvest you wait to dry and freeze until the light purple umbels have blossomed. Only then do the leaves develop their full aroma and retain it during drying. If you want to dry the herb, cut it off about 15 centimeters below the flower and hang it in an airy and shady place. For further use, the dried cabbage is rubbed or ground. To promote digestion, you can drink a cup of brewed oregano after a meal. Oregano tea is also said to help with sore throats and coughs and to brighten the mood, from which his nickname “Wohlgemut” is probably derived. An extract of 100 grams of dried oregano on one litre of water prevents flu as a bath additive.
Oregano reproduces itself via root runners and can easily be reproduced by dividing the roots in autumn. They can also reproduce oregano via head cuttings. In early summer, cut off eight to ten centimeter long side shoots and place them in sandy, humus soil. Cover the cuttings. Slowly accustom the young plants to the sun before planting them in their final location.
Species and varieties
Greek oregano (Origanum heracleoticum) is native to Greece and Italy. With its spicy aroma, it is considered THE pizza spice. It is very winterproof and has aromatic white flowers. The leaves are very hairy. This species is very popular as a magnet for bees and butterflies. You should dose the Greek Oregano sparingly, because it unfolds its intense spice only when heated.
Crete-Dost (Origanum dictamnus), also called Diptam-Dost, grows on Crete and has young reddish, later silvery woolly leaves. With its wiry stems it grows about 40 centimeters high and flowers pink to violet. Peppery oregano (Origanum samothrake) has a peppery aroma and should be protected against winter wetness. Its stems are green and not very woody, the leaves finely hairy and the flowers white-pink. Hop oregano (Origanum rotundifolium) is a visual and culinary delight for connoisseurs. The name refers to the hop-like flowers that develop in early summer. The leaves have a strong oregano aroma and, like ordinary dost, are also used for seasoning. However, the attractive herb is not reliably frost hardy. In winter you should therefore cover the planting area with brushwood and cover it with a film to protect it from moisture.
Oregano (Oreganum x laevigatum) enchants in summer with violet clusters of flowers on up to 40 centimeters high, graceful stems. The leaves of Auslesen such as ‘Aromatico’ offer almost as much seasoning as those of Turkish oregano (Origanum onites). For decorative purposes, the white variegated oregano ‘Variegata’, the golden oregano ‘Aureum’ or the golden green oregano ‘Thumbles Variety’, which has bright yellow foliage, are suitable. Oregano ‘Panta’ decorates itself with white-green spicy leaves. Oregano ‘Hot & Spicy’ is hardy and forms spicy leaves in the garden from spring to late autumn, which retain their aroma even when dried. The ‘Compactum’ variety is a low-density upholstery dock that is particularly suitable for herb boxes and tubs. With its pink to purple flowers it adorns the bed from July to September and also gives edible flowers.
Although not related to the Mediterranean plant species, the peppery Mexican oregano (Poliomintha longiflora) also tastes just like the pizza spice. The 60 centimeter high shrub from the south of the USA blooms from May to September. At first the flowers are white, but later they turn pink. Whole branches can be harvested and dried without losing taste. It is best to place the plant in a pot in which the water can always drain off well. Also, Mexican oregano must be frost-free but cool for the winter.
Diseases and pests
If the lower leaves of the oregano turn yellow, this indicates a lack of nutrients. Then it is necessary to add some organic liquid fertilizer to the irrigation water or to incorporate horn flour around the bushes into the soil. Cicadas or aphids can also occur, but in general oregano is less susceptible to diseases and pests.
In an interview with our store editor Dieke van Dieken, plant doctor René Wadas reveals his tips against aphids.Credits: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera and Editing: Fabian Primsch
Oregano in the MY BEAUTIFUL GARDEN-Shop