Notes from Herb Heaven

Oregano

This is a low growing hardy plant, good as a ground cover. It grows to about 30-45cm. Oregano has small pungent leaves and white or mauve flowers. The creeping variety can be used as a growing mulch. Walking on it releases its distinctive aroma. Oregano grows in full sun or partial shade. It likes light, well drained, slightly acidic soil. It does not do too well in the tropics in the summer and in areas with summer rainfall it must be given a well-drained spot in which to grow. Do not let the plants dry out. Mulch well in hot, dry weather. In cooler regions it can be grown in a container.

Oregano can be grown from seed in spring and the seedlings transplanted when established. Plant about 23cm apart. Cuttings can be taken all year round. Strip off the bottom leaves and plant in wet sand. Keep them in the shade and don’t let them dry out. Propagate by root division in autumn and spring. Prune regularly to encourage compact growth. Fertilise with liquid organic or seaweed food every 6 weeks.

Oregano is sometimes beset with aphids, leaf miner and spider mite. Hose the leaves down with a vigorous jet of water and use an organic insecticide. If the plants are too diseased, remove and destroy them. Use fresh leaves and flowers at any time. Oregano dries well. Cut stems just before flowering time and hang in a warm, dry shaded place. When dried, strip the stems and store in airtight glass containers. If you have a cough, try fresh oregano tea. ¼ cup of fresh leaves in a cup of boiling water, steeped for 5 minutes, strained and drunk with a little honey if liked. The tea is also used to ease headaches and to revitalise flagging spirits. It has been said that chewing oregano helps relieve a toothache. It is possible to freeze oregano by wrapping it in cling wrap and storing it in the freezer for up to 6 months.

The aroma of oregano is a delight in the kitchen and is widely used in Mediterranean cooking. It can be used to flavour meat dishes and stews, although it is particularly good with pizzas, eggs, tomatoes, sprinkled in cheese dishes and chopped into a salad, in butters and vinegars.

Add oregano in the last few minutes of cooking for the best flavour. It goes well with aubergine/eggplant/brinjal as well as beans and courgettes/zucchini.

 

Feta and Oregano Pizza Topping

1 individual pizza base
4 tablespoons tomato purée/paste
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
feta cheese as desired
1 tablespoon dried oregano

Spread the pizza base with the tomato purée.
Top with sliced onion and tomato. 
Crumble feta over the pizza and sprinkle with oregano.

Bake in a 200°C oven for 
about 10-15 minutes.


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