Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Delight in the Mountain - Italian Oregano

Written by: Kath Ibbetson
Oregano is the anglicized form of the Italian word origano, which is also a derivation from the Greek origanon ὀρίγανον oros ὄρος "mountain" + the verb ganousthai γανοῦσθαι "delight in". Also known as wild marjoram and adding more confusion to the mix is the close relationship between marjoram (Origanum majorana) and oregano, which naturally means they also look very much alike.

Italian oregano is a cross between marjoram and the Greek form. Marjoram is a close relative but has a gentler, sweeter flavour. It's widely used in Liguria to flavour savoury pies, pasta sauces and seafood dishes. Floral wreaths of this sweeter herb were very commonly worn by couples at both Greek and Roman marriages, and were taken to symbolize the joyfulness of the wedding and the happiness of the couple.

Oregano, commonly called "the pizza herb," is one of the most widely-used herbs worldwide, so it is hard to imagine anyone not having tried it. Together with basil, it contributes much to the distinctive character of many Italian dishes. It is the perfect secret herb for all your Italian recipes.

Fresh or dried leaves flavour tomato sauce, vinegar, butter, omelettes, quiche, bread, marinated vegetables, beef, poultry, game, onions, and courgettes. It also combines nicely with pickled olives, capers, and lovage leaves. The leaves are used fresh from the plant or dried but they are more flavourful when dried
Refrigerate the fresh leaves in a plastic bag up to 3 days. Choose bright-green, fresh-looking bunches with no sign of wilting or yellowing. Crush dried oregano lightly in your hands before adding to dishes to activate its essential oils, and for the best taste add it near the end of cooking.

The o. herb is light green in colour with a strong, aromatic odour and pleasantly bitter taste. This hardly little plant is a perennial herb, growing to 20-80 cm tall, with opposite leaves 1-4 cm long. In the Philippines, it (Coleus aromaticus) is not commonly used for cooking but is rather considered as a primarily medicinal plant, useful for relieving children's coughs

Growing oregano plants must be spaced at least thirty cm or twelve inches apart from each other for optimal growth. Plant seeds in warm soil in late spring or in pots or seed trays under glass in mid-spring. Oregano grows very slowly and the soil must be weeded on a regular basis to ensure maximum growth of the crop during the growing season. The ideal way to grow in containers is to keep the growing plant well pruned and pinched (pinching off the growing tips of the leaves) at all times during the growing process, so as to have a rounded and bushy shape which is manageable at all times. A growing pot should be about ten to twelve inches or twenty five to thirty cm wide and the ideal soil mixture must have some coarse sand with the clay.

When cultivating using seeds, you must make sure that the seeds are initially sown in the pot out of doors early during the spring season or germinated seedlings can be settled into growing containers immediately following the last frost of the year. To maintain a continuous supply of fresh leaves, the flowers must be pinched off as and when they develop.

The subspecies "Origanum vulgare" is an important culinary herb. It is these leaves that are used in cooking. Unlike most Italian herbs, oregano works with hot and spicy food, which is popular in southern Italy.

Oil of oregano is the premier natural antiseptic and it has recently been found to have extremely effective properties against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Carvacrol is a powerful antimicrobial (antibiotic) and is the active ingredient of Oregano Oil. Carvacrol has been identified as the chief constituent behind this oil's extraordinary properties and is thought to work synergistically with the other components found in Wild Mediterranean O.
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About the Author

Kath Ibbetson has a BSc, a diploma in aromatherapy and a certificate in counselling. But most of all she is a mother and an enthusiastic Italian cook. Italian food is her passion and she has been cooking it for 30 years. Visit her site

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