Herb Series: Part 3 – Oregano

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This is part 3 of our Italian herb series and this week we talk about oregano.  Oregano became popular in the United States after World War II when the soldiers came home talking about the pizzas they had overseas.  This led to a growth in the demand for pizza everywhere.   Since oregano is so often used in pizza sauce the herb itself gained popularity as well.

Oregano is a perennial which means it will come back each year for about 2-4 years. It makes a great border for gardens and keeps most bugs away, but not aphids or spider mites.  If you let the flowers bloom on the plant, the oregano leaves will lose their flavor.  Pick off the flowers as they blossom.   They can be editable too!  Cooking oregano for too long will result in a more bitter taste.  If using dried oregano keep in mind unlike other herbs, it’s flavor is more intense dried than fresh.  For example, 1 Tablespoon of fresh oregano is equal to 1 tsp. of dried.

Here’s what we need to know to grow:

Types:  Greek, Golden and Italian oregano are the most common.  Each have their own flavor – not all oregano is the same.  Greek is commonly used in most culinary applications.  Italian is described as sweet and spicy.  This could be due to the fact it is a hybrid of sweet marjoram and oregano.  The color of the leaves are pale green with a hint of gray.  The Golden oregano is more mild in flavor than the rest.  This year I will try and grow the Greek and Italian.

Sunlight:  Requires full sun (8 hours a day direct sunlight).

Types of soil: Well drained. Do not use a rich soil as this can cause it to lose flavor interestingly.

Planting by seed: Unlike other seeds, these need sunlight to germinate.   Therefore do not cover the seeds with soil, just maybe a light dusting with a mist of water.  It will take 5 to 7 days to germinate.  Start a few weeks before the last frost date.  You will want to thin the plants 10 to 12 inches apart.  Remember, thinning does not mean pulling up from the roots, just snip them at the base with a scissors.

Seed Germination:  5 to 7 days

Planting seedlings/plants from a store: Basically transplant them outdoors once it is above 45 degrees F.    Use a time released fertilizer in the very beginning only.  Then use a liquid fertilizer every 2 or 3 weeks.  Oregano does not need much.  And too much can do it damage.

Watering:  It does not require a lot of water at all.  In fact during dry seasons simply water it 1 or 2 times a week.

A few notes:

#1:  Oregano is NOT marjoram.  They might be similar, but they are not the same even though oregano can be called “wild marjoram”.

#2:  Start harvesting when the branches/sprigs are about 4 or 5 inches long.   Place them in a glass jar of water with a plastic bag loosely over top for keeping fresh after cutting.  They should last about a week.

I hope this helps you with your planting and planning!   I’m already starting to diagram out how I want my own garden to look and what I need to plant when.   I’ll have a few more posts for the series and then I’ll offer a spreadsheet with all the information combined.

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