In cold northern areas grow any variety of O. vulgare. In warmer areas grow any variety of either O. vulgare or O. heracleoticum.
The name "oregano" is more accurately applied to a flavor than to a plant, and there are two varieties that you can grow for seasoning called oregano. O.
vulgare is usually grown; it's hardier and easier to propagate than the alternative, O. heracleoticum—also known as wild marjoram. The name "oregano" itself has been traced back to an ancient Greek word translated as "delight of the mountains," which suggests that the plants once grew wild on the hillsides of Greece. Oregano (O. vulgare) is a very hardy perennial that may grow2y2 feet tall.
The leaves are greyish-green, slightly hairy, and oval in shape, and the flowers are pink, white, or purple. O. heracleoticum is a tender perennial that grows only a foot high. The leaves are very hairy and oval in shape, and the plant bears small white flower clusters on tall stems. Oregano's reputed medicinal powers are varied. A tea made from the leaves and flowers was believed to relieve indigestion, headaches, and nervousness. Oil extracted from the plant was used as a cure for toothache.
O. vulgare can be grown anywhere in the United States from root divisions or seed planted early in spring. O. heracleoticum can also be grown anywhere in the United States from seed or root divisions if planting is delayed until all danger of frost is past; it should be grown as an annual or given winter protection in colder northern areas. O. heracleoticum can also be grown in a container — it makes an attractive houseplant.
Don't fertilize the planting bed for oregano—lack of nutrients even enhances the flavor. Both varieties need well-drained soil in a sunny location, although O. vulgare will tolerate partial shade. Plant both varieties from root divisions or seeds and space plants about a foot apart. Plant O. vulgare on your average date of last frost, and O. heracleoticum two to three weeks later. Plant seeds a quarter inch deep in rows 12 to 18 inches apart, and thin to six to 12 inches apart. Plant divisions six to
12 inches apart in rows 12 to 18 inches apart.
Fertilizing and watering
Don't fertilize oregano at all. Detailed information on fertilizing is given in "Spadework: The Essential Soil" in Parti.
Keep the oregano plants on the dry side.
Oregano varieties have no serious pest problems.
These plants have no serious disease problems.
Oregano is ready to harvest when it begins to flower; cut the stems down to a few inches above the soil. Leaves can be harvested for fresh use throughout the growing season if you cut off the flowers before they open—this encourages fuller foliage.
Hang oregano in bunches to dry; when they're dry, remove the leaves and store them in an airtight container. Detailed information on storing and preserving is given in Part 3.
Oregano is essential to lots of Italian dishes. Add it to spaghetti sauce, and sprinkle it on pizza. Try oregano and a touch of lemon on lamb chops or steak. Sprinkle oregano on cooked vegetables for a lively flavor.
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