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Every garden should have a patch for growing fresh herbs. Dried herbs in food are a good substitute, but nothing can compare to going out and picking fresh herbs from the garden and using them immediately. The aroma of them sets your taste-buds going straight away, and you know that whatever you are cooking is going to taste great!
There are several herbs that are a must for the garden. Oregano is top of that list! It is a herb that is native to Europe and used a lot in Mediterranean cookery. The addition of fresh oregano to a pasta sauce will take your taste-buds straight to Italy!
Oregano is easy to grow. You can either get a packet of seeds and grow them in a small pot on the windowsill, or buy a more mature plant from the garden centre. If you don't have a garden, it is still possible to grow your own herbs. I grow mine in pots, which are situated in a sunny area just outside my back door. Whenever I am cooking, I don't need to go far to get my fresh herbs....great if it's raining outside!
The thing about oregano is, being from warmer climates, it does like a sunny aspect and a light soil. If your soil is on the heavy side, you might do better with it in a pot on the patio.
Keep it well watered in dry weather and you will soon get tons of fresh oregano. Cut the herb as you need it and if you have a glut of leaves, you could also dry them for use in the winter.
It's so easy to dry your own herbs. Pick the leaves just before the plant flowers. Wash and pat dry on kitchen paper. Put a double sheet of kitchen paper on the plate in the microwave and put the herbs on that. Microwave on full heat for one minute. Turn the herbs and continue microwaving for a minute at a time till they go dry and crisp. Crumble and store in a airtight jar, remembering to label it so you know which herb you have!
Growing your own herbs saves money, you need never run out of herbs when cooking, and they taste so much better fresh!
When my first two children were 4 and 3 we went to Greece on a very special holiday. The destination was to the Greek Island of Karpathos and it was the first time that UK flights had landed there directly. Not a touristy place at all, and we loved the real Greek nature of the people, and the remote landscape. The north of the island was very difficult to visit due to the road being unpaved, and we had to go via boat, landing at the small coastal village of Diafani, from where a coach would traverse the hilly roads to take us to the ancient settlement of Olymbos. This remote isolated village where the traditional Greek costume was still worn was majestic and awe inspiring
It was a place and a time which I will remember for the whole of my life because the heat was searing, and we sat on the coach amidst the smell of Oregano which had been collected and dried, and placed in each seat back to permeate the air. The sun beaming through the windows, the aroma of fresh mountain herbs, and the remote and unique location means that every time I use fresh oregano I stand and smell the fragrance, and I am transported back to that time and place. My little children beaming in the seats as they enjoyed new adventures, and the twinkle in my eye as I suspected a new arrival would soon be coming to our family. It was a simple time and a perfect place.
So ever since that time in 1988 I have had a special love of oregano and of course you can use dried but fresh is so much better, and remarkably easy to grow. It isn't as widely available as the more common herbs, but it should be, because it is in my opinion the best. What I do is to look out for anyone selling the baby plants in about April so now is perfect. If you want to grow them yourself that is fine too. Just sow the seeds 3/4in deep and 6" apart in April outside, and then after the seedlings appear thin to 12" apart. I like to plant mine in pots near to the house so collecting them for cooking is then easy, and doesn't involve trampling over the lawn to a far away herb bed.
They love to be warm and sun baked as they live in Greece and southern places. They will need regular watering when young, but after that will happily sit not watered for ages, and so it's not a great disaster if you go away for a week in July or August. As soon as the plants get going don't be afraid to pick them regularly. I just use scissors and trim off what I need. This stops them flowering too early, because after then the leaves are more bitter. It's only the leaves you want, not the stems, so you just pick them off and use them in your cooking. To be honest it's a plant which is great for the lazy gardener as it doesn't really need much care at all.
If you don't want to grow it you can buy it in Waitrose, where it is described as a sunkissed herb, and a mountain joy with a thyme like fragrance, and a small bunch will cost you 74p.
How I use the herb is varied but my favourite way is to add it to Greek salads, and pasta sauces as well as over new potatoes drizzled with butter. These will be more delicious if you add the herb and are easy to make.
This is my Greek Salad:
Salad leaves pref organic
Beefsteak tomatoes (giant ones you can slice)
Olive oil dressing, either make your own or buy fresh,- Duchy make a lovely one.
If you want to make your own just mix 100mls of virgin olive oil with 50mls white wine vinegar
Fresh oregano leaves.
Optional Greek olives, sliced red onion, sliced cucumber.
All you do is to arrange the salad leaves on a plate with the other items as you please adding the optional ones if you like. Then pour over the dressing and cover with chopped oregano. Delicious!
All you need to go with it is a lovely glass of Greek wine and you are in heaven!
Oregano is also called Marjoram and is one of my favourite plants. To me it says summer is coming and it takes me back to 1988 in a moment! The twinkle was born and she's 20 now and loves Oregano just as much as me!
Oregano, also known as wild Margoram is one of the main herbs used in Mediterranean cooking. I use a lot of oregano when I make pasta dishes especially Bolognese and I simply loved the sweet and musky fragrant.
Oregano has a long history of medicinal use. It is a stimulant and is slightly tonic in nature. It has been used to treat measles and colic. The oil of oregano is known to reduce pain and inflammation, strengthens the immune system and increases joint and muscle flexibility. Oregano in pillows will help to relax the body and promote sleep. I have not tried this but I heard that chewing fresh oregano leaves can help to keep our breath fresh.
Fresh oregano stimulates the appetite and is used widely in cooking especially in Italian dishes, sauces, soups and stews. It is also a great seasoning for fish and meat. When brewed as tea, it can help to relieve indigestion.
If you are thinking of growing your own vegetable this year, oregano is one of the easiest herbs to grow. It is a perennial plant and it grows and spread easily. You can either buy an oregano plant from the garden centre or grow it from seeds. I bought a tiny oregano plant 3 years ago and I have been harvesting the leaves since. The bright green leaves produces tiny purple flowers throughout summer. The plant is very hardy and it even survived the harsh winter this year.
Oregano can be grown in a pot, trough or on the ground. When you tread on oregano or sweeps pass the plant, you will be greeted with a sweet and musky scent. Fresh oregano leaves can be dried on the window sill and stored in a tight lid jar for later use.
Oregano can be infused into oil. However, just like other essential oils, it is important to find more information about the oil before using.