Notes from Herb Heaven


Native to Asia, Europe and North America, Marjoram was said to spread happiness and was used abundantly back in the Middle Ages. It was a favourite of Greeks and Romans, who wore it at their weddings as sacred to Venus. Marjoram is perennial in warm areas, half-hardy in temperate climates where it dies back in winter. Sweet or knotted marjoram grows to about 60cm and has pearly knots of flower buds, white or pale mauve, at regular intervals up the stem. These flowers should not be allowed to form and should rather be cut on the stem and dried before they open. The flavour is at its height at this time. Pruning the bush about three times a year will help it keep its bushy shape.

Grow majoram in full sun in light, well-drained soil. It does tolerate a bit of shade. Do not overwater.

Marjoram makes a good container plant. Give it room in a deep big pot. The root system is fairly vigorous and a mature plant can be divided when it starts spreading. Propagation is by seed, division and cuttings. If the branches have touched the ground and sent out little rootlets, cut them away and plant elsewhere. Take cuttings in spring and set them in moist sand until they are rooted. Seed can be sown in seed boxes in spring or autumn. When the first true leaves have formed, plant out into small pots or bags. Plant in the garden in spring.

Divide the roots of a mature plant in autumn. Apply a liquid organic fertiliser every 6 weeks. Marjoram has a sweet spicy flavour. Use the fresh leaves and flowers in salads and vegetables. Chop it fine with spinach, carrots, turnips, potatoes, cabbage, celery and green beans. It is a good addition to fish sauces, eggs, cheese dishes, stuffings for poultry and in marinades. Marjoram is also used to flavour vinegars and oils. Dried or fresh it can be used as a refreshing herbal tea, which is also good for colds, headaches and bad tummies. A ¼ cup of fresh leaves to a cup of boiling water. Sweeten with honey if desired. Chew a sprig of marjoram to sweeten the breath and to ease coughs and sore throats. Dry marjoram just before the flowers open. Place on newspaper or tie in small bundles and dry in a dark airy place. Crumble the dried leaves and flowers off the stems and store in airtight glass containers

To freeze, pack small bunches in plastic bags and freeze for up to two months. Finely chopped leaves can also be frozen in ice cubes.

Chicken Liver Pâté

Serves 4

200g chicken livers 
200g sausagemeat
1 egg, beaten
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs chopped marjoram
1 Tbs brandy
2 Tbs port
150g rindless streaky bacon
1 bay leaf

Finely mince the livers and mix with the
sausage meat in a bowl. 

Add egg, seasoning, marjoram, brandy and port.
Mix it well.

Lay the bacon rashers on a board and 
stretch them with a round-bladed knife. 

Line the bottom and sides of an ovenproof 
dish or terrine with the bacon rashers. 

Spoon in the liver mixture and top with a bay leaf. 

Cover and place in a roasting tin with 2.5cm water. 
Bake at 200°C for 45 minutes. 
Cool and store in refrigerator. 

It is best left for two days to allow 
the flavours to infuse. 

Serve with French bread or toast

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