Oregano is a wonderful perennial culinary as well as medicinal herb. It has long been recognized as one of the “functional foods” for its nutritional, anti-oxidants and disease preventing properties. The herb, whose name means “delight of the mountains” in Greek, is native to the Mediterranean region.
Botanically, the herb belongs to the mint (Lamiaceae) family, of the genus; Origanum and is known scientifically as Origanum vulgare.
The plant is a small shrub, growing up to 75 cm in height with multi-branched stems covered with small grayish-green oval leaves and small white or pink flowers.
Oregano is particularly used widely in Greek and Italian cuisines. Its leaves have a characteristic aromatic, warm, and slightly bitter taste. The intensity varies; however, good-quality oregano is so strong that it almost numbs the tongue.
There are many varieties of oregano cultivated across Europe but the influence of climate, season, and soil on the composition of the essential oils is greater than the difference between various species. Origanum heracleoticum is another Greek variety that is having characteristic sharp scent and flavor. Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) is one of close related species of oregano.
Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) is a different from origanum species but related to the verbena family of herbs. It is used in place of oregano in many Central American regions.
Here are some interesting facts about Oregano:
1. Ancient Greeks believed that cows that grazed in fields full of oregano had tastier meat.
2. When in bloom they have beautiful purple or pink flowers that are also edible.
3. The Ancient Greeks also believed that if you anoint yourself with oregano you will dream about your future spouse.
4. It became popular in America after soldiers returned from Service in World War Two in the Mediterranean and were craving pizza its this reason it is often called the pizza herb.
5. When using dried oregano crush it a little in your hand to release the essential oils and flavor.
6. Its a wonderful herb to add to pasta dishes especially tomato based, omelets, bread, roast potatoes, kebabs, chicken, lentils the list is endless.
Oregano is a proven super “functional food.” This herb is one of the foundation bases of healthy Mediterranean diet in addition to olive oil, fish and lots of greens, herbs and vegetables. It has an excellent nutritional profile; just 100 g of oregano herb provides:
Dietary fiber- 107% (Percent of RDA) (RDA- Recommended daily allowance).
Carotene-ß- 4112 µg
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