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464


ORIGANUM


Culinary Oreganos and Marjorams


All types of Origanum look good in the garden. But for kitchen use, the following are best. Sweet marjo- ram (O. majorana) has a sweet, spicy fl avor; it can even be used to make tea. Italian marjoram (O.× majoricum) has a more complex, slightly less sweet fl avor, while pot marjoram (O. onites) has a savory, thymelike taste. Flavor of the plain oregano (O. vulgare) is variable;


choose a selected form with an aroma and fl avor you like. Biblical hyssop (O. syriacum) and Greek oregano (O. v. hirtum) are pungent and spicy-hot.


O


O. laevigatum. Zones 2–24. Native to Turkey and Cyprus. Sprawling plant with grayish green leaves; reaches 2 ft. high in bloom. It spreads by rhizomes and arching stems that root at the joints to form a dense clump 2–3 ft. wide. Branching, airy clusters of 1⁄2- in., tubular pink or purple fl ow- ers and small purplish bracts appear from late spring to fall. Useful as bank or groundcover. ‘Herrenhausen’ has larger bracts and more compact heads of lilac-pink fl owers. ‘Hopley’s’ blooms from mid- to late summer, bearing denser heads of purplish pink fl owers and purplish bracts. Both ‘Her- renhausen’ and ‘Hopley’s’ have purple leaves in cool weather. ‘Rosenkuppel’ has large heads of deep purple blooms and may be a hybrid. O. libanoticum. Zones 2b–24. Native to Lebanon. Attractive trailing plant to 2 ft. high and wide, with small, roundish, smooth green leaves. From midsummer to fall, pro- duces cascades of pale green to pinkish bracts (similar to those of hop, Humulus) and small rose-pink fl owers; heads elongate as the season pro- gresses, ending up several inches long. For best effect, plant at top of a wall or in a hanging basket. O. majorana (Majorana


hortensis). SWEET MARJO- RAM, KNOTTED MARJORAM. Zones 8–24; summer annual anywhere. Native to the Medi- terranean and Turkey. To 1–2 ft. high and wide. Oval gray-green


leaves. Inconspicuous white fl owers emerge from clusters of knotlike heads at top of plant. Keep blossoms cut off and plant trimmed to encourage fresh growth. Fresh or dried leaves are used for seasoning meats, scrambled eggs, salads, vinegars, casseroles, and tomato dishes. Often grown in pots indoors on a sunny win- dowsill in cold-winter areas. O. × majoricum. ITALIAN MARJORAM, SICILIAN MARJO- RAM. Zones 4–24. Similar to O. majorana but with wider, greener leaves. Some gourmet cooks consider this the best marjoram for seasoning. O. ‘Marshall’s Memory’. Zones 6–9, 12–24. Hybrid to 1–11⁄2 ft. high, 2 ft. wide. Forms a dense mat of small, rounded leaves that are bright green when new, aging to a darker shade. Profuse lavender-pink fl owers with rosy bracts in sum- mer. Best with moderate water. O. ‘Norton Gold’. Zones 2b–24. Hybrid of O. laevigatum and O. vulgare ‘Aureum’. To 1 ft. high and 11⁄2–2 ft. or more wide, with open habit like that of O. laevigatum. Rounded leaves are brilliant gold with a bluish sheen. Foliage is aromatic, with a good fl avor; for mealtime color, use sprays of leaves as garnish. Pink fl owers bloom in midsummer. Protect from hottest sun. O. onites. POT MARJORAM, RHIGANI. Zones 8–24. Eastern Mediterranean native. To 2 ft. high and wide, with bright green, aromatic, inch-long leaves and 2-in.-wide, fl attish heads of


white or purplish fl owers in late summer. Sometimes called Cretan oregano. O. rotundifolium. Zones 2b–24. Native to Turkey, Arme- nia, and Georgia. Dense, suck- ering plant grows to 8 in. high and 1 ft. wide, bearing numer- ous wiry stems set with pairs of virtually stemless, blue-green leaves that have a rounded heart shape. Blooms through- out summer, bearing spikes of small, pale pink blossoms and green, 2–3-in.-long bracts like those of hop (Humulus) at stem ends (bracts almost obscure the fl owers). ‘Kent Beauty’ is a hybrid with O. scabrum; has a more compact habit (4 in. high, 8 in. wide) and bears conspicu- ous mauve-toned pink blos- soms and deep rose bracts in the summer. ‘Rose Beauty’ has even darker reddish bracts. ‘Barbara Tingey’ is a hybrid with O. calcaratum and similar to ‘Kent Beauty’; its rose-pink fl ow- ers peep out from under light green bracts that age to deep purplish pink. O. sipyleum. SHOWY PINK OREGANO. Zones 4–9, 12–24. Native to Turkey. To 1–2 ft. high. Small, blue-green, oval to lance- shaped leaves. In summer, thin stems hold sprays of pale green bracts and pinkish violet fl owers well above the foliage. Good cut fl owers for dried arrangements. O. syriacum (O. maru). BIBLICAL HYSSOP, SYRIAN MARJORAM. Zones 7–24. Native to Syria, Turkey, and Cyprus. With its strong, sweet, pungent fl avor, this plant is a favorite herb for fl avoring Middle Eastern dishes. Grows to 11⁄2 ft. high and wide. Soft gray-green leaves. Blooms in late spring and early summer, with pale pink, 1⁄4-in. fl owers in branching, 2–3-in. clusters. O. vulgare. OREGANO, WILD MARJORAM. Zones 1–24, except as noted. Native to most of Europe and temperate Asia. Upright growth to 21⁄2 ft. high, 2–3 ft. wide. Oval dark green leaves; white or purplish pink blossoms from midsummer to early fall. Fresh or dried leaves are used in many dishes, espe- cially Spanish and Italian ones. Most wild forms have scent-


less leaves; be sure to choose a selected form with a good aroma and a fl avor that you like.


For best fl avor, keep this plant trimmed to prevent fl owering. ‘Aureum’ has white fl owers, pink bracts, and bright golden foliage in spring (with morning sun), turning to green by late summer and fall; ‘Thumble’s Variety’ is similar. ‘Aureum Crispum’ has curly golden leaves. ‘Compactum’ (‘Humile’) is a wide-spreading plant just a few inches high, suitable for a groundcover or between paving stones; it seldom fl owers, but leaves turn purple in winter. ‘Country Cream’ (with white fl owers) and lilac-pink-fl owered ‘Polyphant’ (‘White Anniversary’) are compact growers to 4–6 in. and have leaves with a distinct creamy white edge; they are often confused in commerce (and both are sometimes sold as ‘Variegatum’). ‘Roseum’ has rose-pink fl owers, green leaves. O. v. hirtum (O. heracleo-


ticum). GREEK OREGANO. Zones 8, 9, 12–24. Native to Greece, Turkey, and the Aegean Islands. Like the species, but with broader, slightly fuzzy gray- green leaves. Has a spicy, pun- gent fl avor.


CARE


Not fussy about soil type but need good drainage. In milder climates, many species can become woody with age, but wood of previous seasons is seldom as productive as new growth from the base. For best results, cut previous year’s stems to ground in winter or early spring. Propagate by divi- sion or from cuttings taken before fl ower buds form. The various species hybridize freely, and seedlings may not resem- ble the parents. Colored-leaf varieties need a half-day of direct sun for best color but can burn in afternoon sun in hot-summer areas.


Your nose is your best guide to fi nding a delicious oregano to grow. Seeds are often mislabeled, and fragrance varies much from plant to plant within the species.


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