Growing and Using Oregano - By Kate Wall

Growing and Using Oregano

Oregano is a Mediterranean herb whose use dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. It is a low growing plant which makes a very good ground cover. The leaves are small, dark green and slightly hairy. They release a strong aroma when crushed. Oregano can be grown very effectively between pavers or stepping stones where the aroma can be appreciated when walking along the path.

It grows well in most areas of Australia, preferring a slightly acidic and well drained soil. Oregano is a perennial herb however it is not frost hardy, so will do best as a summer annual in areas with heavy frosts. In areas with cold winters many oregano plants can deteriorate and yellow over winter.  Where winter yellowing occurs, a trim in early spring will see vibrant new green growth return. Some of the oregano varieties in the Elite Herbs™ range will be significantly more cold resistant than other varieties and will retain their vigour and colour for much longer in cold zones.

In tropical areas it can be badly affected by high humidity and will do best treated as a winter annual in highly humid areas. In humid areas it will perform better in open areas with good airflow.

Oregano likes lots of sun and will do best with at least 6 hours of sun per day. In very hot areas or if grown beside hot surfaces such as gravel or pavers, it will prefer some protection from western sun.

Oregano prefers a free draining soil with some organic matter added, but will not like an overly rich soil. It does not like wet feet, so will do best in raised beds or planters in areas with heavy clay soils. Oregano works well in pots as a ground cover below other larger growing herbs, or in green walls where it can trail.

In the garden oregano will spread by producing roots where the nodes touch the ground. In pots or green walls, it is not able to put down roots at each node which can cause it to become straggly. This is best managed by regular harvesting to encourage dense new growth.

Oregano has been used medicinally since the times of the ancient Greeks. It is used widely for stomach and digestive complains and to aid in digestion. It has been found to be useful in treating colds and sore throats and also toothache. The stronger the flavour of the leaf, the stronger the medicinal properties will also be. A leaf can be chewed to aid in sore throats or toothache, and a slight tingling or numbing of the tongue will be experienced. If this effect is not noticed, the plant you have does not contain a high enough quantity of flavour compounds to have any medicinal effect.

Oregano has been found to have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties and has a myriad of uses in herbal medicines.

Its use as a digestive aid makes it an ideal addition to flavour meals, particularly with heavy or rich dishes.

In culinary uses, oregano is often used to enhance the natural flavours of other foods. It is a key ingredient in many Mediterranean dishes and in particular in tomato based sauces and red meat dishes. Greek cuisine also uses oregano to enhance the flavours of chicken dishes. Oregano is best added towards the end of cooking for the fullest flavour, but can also be used in marinades and infused in flavoured oils. It is often called the “Pizza herb” as it is so well suited for flavouring pizza sauces.

Oregano is used with chilli in seasoning many Mexican dishes.

The Elite Herbs™ range includes 4 different oregano's. Each has a unique flavour which can be relied upon for consistent flavour as all plants in the range are cutting grown for consistency.

Simply Zesty™ Origanum spp. 'OREG04' PBR intended is a very richly flavoured oregano which will work very well with red meat dishes, casseroles or any dish where a full flavour is desired. The strong flavour of this herb means it has high levels of flavour compounds which also give it enhanced medicinal properties. Simply Zesty™ has a 5 chef hat flavour rating which may be a little strong for those not accustomed to the full flavour of oregano. For oregano lovers, this is a must have plant!

OzSuperb™ Origanum spp. 'OREG02' PBR intended and OzFiesta™ Origanum spp. 'OREG03' PBR intended are both full flavoured herbs with a 4 chef hat flavour rating. Although they both have a strong flavour, they have flavour differences which can be used to add variety to dishes. OzSuperb™ has a traditional Greek oregano culinary flavour, while OzFiesta™ has a more unique and complex flavour with peppery overtones and a hint of mint. Both of these can be used in any dish which calls for oregano.

For those who prefer a milder oregano for use in salads, OzViva™ Origanum spp 'OREG01' PBR intended is for you. OzViva™ has a 2 chef hat flavour rating and has a delicate but traditional flavour.

This wonderful range of oregano means there is a flavour for every dish and oregano can be readily enjoyed in the garden and in the kitchen.