Common names: marjoram, sweet marjoram Botanical name: Marjorana hortensis Origin: Mediterranean
Few varieties are available; grow the variety available in your area.
A tender branching perennial, usually grown as an annual, marjoram grows 10 to 15 inches tall. It has greyish opposite leaves and lavender or whitish flowers growing up most of the stem. Marjoram means "joy of the mountain." Venus was reputed to be the first to grow this herb. Its leaves and flowering heads, steeped and made into a tea, have been said to relieve indigestion and headaches.
Marjoram will grow in most areas of the United States, but it's sensitive to frost and needs winter protection to survive the winter in very cold areas. Plant marjoram from seeds or transplants on your average date of last frost.
Marjoram tolerates light shade and thrives in poor soil with good drainage. Don't fertilize the soil before planting; over-fertile soil will produce lots of leaves, but they'll have little flavor. One of the
attractive qualities of many herbs is that they'll thrive in the kind of soil conditions that a lot of Other plants won't tolerate. Marjoram is started from seed or transplants. On your average date of last frost, sow seeds a quarter inch deep in rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Thin the seedlings about six inches apart when they're growing sturdily, or plant transplants that are two or three inches tall, and set them about six inches apart. If the weather warms up quickly, mulch transplants to protect the roots from too much heat until they're acclimated. If you're afraid marjoram won't survive the winter, dig up the plants in the fall, let them winter as houseplants, and plant again in spring — divide the clumps before replanting.
Fertilizing and watering
Don't fertilize marjoram. Detailed information about fertilizing is given in "Spadework: The Essential Soil" in Parti.
Water sparingly. The less water marjoram gets, the better the flavor will be.
About all the special attention marjoram requires is a protection of mulch to help it weather very cold winters.
Marjoram has no serious pest problems. Like most herbs, it's a good plant for organic gardens.
Marjoram has no serious disease problems.
When and how to harvest
When the first blooms appear, cut the plants back several inches;
you can do this several times without harming the plant. Fresh leaves can be harvested at any time.
Storing and preserving
Dry leaves and flower tops quickly. Store the crumbled, dry leaves for winter use. Detailed information on storing and preserving is given in Part 3.
Marjoram is one of the traditional components of a bouquet garni. The leaves are good with veal and liver, in meat and egg dishes, and in poultry stuffings. Try them in soups or on roast beef sandwiches. Make herb butter with them. Add chopped marjoram leaves in melted butter to spinach just before serving.
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