If you like Italian food then is one the must-have item in the Italian seasoning. I love the pleasantly strong smell of oregano. There is nothing like homemade herb seasoning. When I purchased my cute spice box, it came with many herbs and the smell was terrible. But whenever I try to make Italian dishes I get some fresh oregano and warm it in the oven for 15 mins. As soon as it starts releasing the essential oils, I take it out and add it to the dish. That way you get instant herbs at your fingertips. Or you can just use the traditional slow drying method.
Sneak in this herb in your front yard
I have many oregano plants in my garden. They are not potted but are in the ground. In fact, they are like magnets to bees, so I just added them in my front yard as well. In the front yard, the flowering stems fall over the paver blocks and give a unique character to the flowerbed. Oregano is a fast-growing herb, once established well in the garden, it can give a tough competition to even fast-growing herbs like mint. With cute, symmetrically arranged leaves and white-purple stalks of tiny flowers, it adds a lot of beauty to the garden. This year, it is June, and I’m still waiting for my bees but the blooms have started appearing and they will be here any day now. When these bees take over the oregano patch, they don’t even let me water during the day. I have to wait till they are gone in the evening. They don’t sting. In fact, they are very friendly but they hate to be disturbed. And then there are just so many of them that I’m always afraid to make the hungry bees angry. So as a gardener, this is one of the best and cheapest plants to attract bees and beneficial insects in your garden.
Origin of Oregano
Oregano is native to Eurasia and hence it is an integral part of Mediterranean cuisine. Nowadays it has become very famous and commonly grown in the home gardens in the US and Mexico. As people throughout the world are trying foods from other countries, the interest to grow this herb is rising. This is one of the positive side effects of globalization.
The botanical name of oregano is Origanum vulgare. It is also famously known as Italian Oregano and Wild Marjoram. It appears very similar to sweet marjoram but the oregano leaves are a little tapered and not rounded. The aroma of the herb is quite similar to that of Cuban Oregano and Carom seeds. Because they all contain thymol and other essential oils that give these plants a pungent aroma.
Health Benefits of Oregano
Oregano is a good natural source of Vitamin A, Beta Carotene, and Vitamin E. It also supplies a number of minerals and trace elements like Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Manganese, and Selenium.
Like many other herbs oregano is believed to have medicinal values. As a traditional or herbal medicine, oregano is an anti-oxidant and stress buster. The phytochemicals carvacrol, thymol, and some other chemicals are believed to elevate mood. Some animal studies show that oregano possibly can help reducing blood sugar and cholesterol. It also may possess some anti-proliferative properties and can reduce inflammation and suppress tumors. The essential oils in oregano may help with the regeneration of liver cells. Now all these are claimed benefits and the research is limited to animal studies only.
GROWING OREGANO PLANTS IN HOME-GARDEN
You can grow oregano from seeds but I think the best way to propagate oregano is by splitting the plants. I had purchased one tiny herb pot and now it has grown more than 100 fold. In fact, it is a locally invasive plant. If you plant it along with other slow-growing plants, oregano covers up the entire available space. So if you want to get rid of a weedy part in your garden like next to sidewalks oregano can quickly fill up space and suppress weeds.
Growing Temperature & Growing Zone for Oregano
Oregano grows in USDA 4 -12. As far as I have experienced it is pretty cold hardy. Yes, it dies back in winter, but comes back by late winter. This year it tolerated severe and continuous frost for days and still, it was up and rising again in February. You can harvest and trim it down to 2–4 inches before the winter. It grows so fast that I constantly have to prune it or even remove some plants every 3–4 months. I use the excess dried leaves as mulch or add to compost to keep the retained moisture in the soil and to keep the fruit flies away from my compost bins.
Oregano loves full sun location. If you are growing them from seeds then keep the seeds covered with a plastic bag to protect the seedlings in the early days. It is always easier to grow them from starter plants, cuttings, or splitting the existing plants. I just pull out a part of the stem and plant it at a different spot of a pot. Initially, it grows slowly but once established, the growth happens very fast. The new stems wherever they touch the ground grow new roots and the plant gets wider and wider.
Oregano grows in all types of soil. In the ground, it hardly needs any fertilizers. I just prune the branches and dump them again next to them. If the soil is really bad or if the plant is potted then you can either change the soil or add some all-purpose fertilizer.
Oregano grows several stems and forms a dense network of roots and stems. The plant grows up to 1–3 feet tall. The flowers start forming in early summer and the blooming period is June to October. The blooming period may vary depending on where you live. But my oregano patch has already started blooming since May. Oregano is a self-pollinating plant, so you just need insects and wind for the seeds to form. But once the plants start bolting, the flavor of the leaves changes. You can just prune the plants to allow new leaves and stems to form if it bolts. I like to have flowers to attract bees and butterflies.