Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a common species of Origanum, a genus of the Lamiaceae (mint) family. It is native to temperate western and southwestern Eurasia and the Mediterranean region. Oregano is a perennial herb, growing from 20–80 cm tall, with opposite leaves 1–4 cm long. Oregano will grow in a pH range between 6.0 (mildly acidic) and 9.0 (strongly alkaline), with a preferred range between 6.0 and 8.0. It is sometimes called wild marjoram, and its close relative Origanum majorana is known as sweet marjoram.
The flowers are purple, 3–4 mm long, produced in erect spikes. It has spade-shaped, olive-green leaves. It is a perennial, although it is grown as an annual in colder climates, as it often does not survive the winter. Oregano is planted in early spring, the plants being spaced 30 cm apart in fairly dry soil, with full sun. It prefers a hot, relatively dry climate, but does well in other environments.
Many subspecies and strains of oregano have been developed by humans over centuries for their unique flavours or other characteristics. Tastes range from spicy or astringent to more complicated and sweet. Simple oregano sold in garden stores as Origanum vulgare may have a bland taste and larger, less dense leaves, and is not considered the best for culinary uses, with a taste less remarkable and pungent. It can pollinate other more sophisticated strains, but the offspring are rarely better in quality. The related species, Origanum onites (Greece, Turkey) and O. syriacum (West Asia), have similar flavours. Some varieties show a flavour intermediate between oregano and marjoram.
The ‘Greek Kaliteri’ cultivar is a small, hardy, dark, compact plant with thick, silvery-haired leaves, usually with purple undersides. It has an excellent reputation for flavour and pungency, as well as medicinal uses, with a strong, archetypal oregano flavour (in Greek i kaliteri means ‘the best’).
Oregano is an important culinary herb, used for the flavour of its leaves, which can be more flavourful when dried than fresh. It has an aromatic, warm, and slightly bitter taste, which can vary in intensity. Good-quality oregano may be strong enough almost to numb the tongue, but cultivars adapted to colder climates often have a lesser flavour. Factors such as climate, season, and soil composition may affect the aromatic oils present, and this effect may be greater than the differences between the various species of plants.
This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme