Dried Oregano in wooden bowl

Oregano: Enjoy A Taste Of The Mediterranean

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Nicole
December 11, 2021
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When you make delicious tomato-based pasta or homemade pizza, chances are you reach for oregano because of how it adds an extra burst of flavor.

Oregano is a popular herb that’s got a sweet yet earthy flavor which makes it ideal for use on a variety of dishes, both sweet and savoury. This is why it’s become such a popular herb used in cooking.

Does oregano work well with spices? Oregano pairs well with a variety of spices. These include basil, parsley, and thyme. It’s also great when used with garlic. 

Before using oregano in your cooking, you might have some questions. For example, what dishes taste better with oregano in them, and is dried or fresh oregano better? 

What, Exactly, Is Oregano? 

What, Exactly, Is Oregano? 

Oregano is a herb that’s part of the mint family, but there are different variations of it.

Interestingly, the word “oregano” comes from the Greek words “oros,” which means mountain and “ganos,” which can be translated as joy. Therefore, oregano brings mountains of joy!

It brings joy to many people as it’s used in a variety of cuisines all around the world, from Greek and Italian to Turkish cuisine. 

If you’ve never had oregano before, it tastes spicy and sweet. It’s got bold, earthy flavors that are slightly bitter. 

Where Did Oregano Originate? 

Oregano hails from the mountains in Greece, and traditionally it’s a signature herb that’s used throughout the Mediterranean. It’s native to both Mediterranean countries and western Asia, while having naturalized in some parts of the U.S. and Mexico.

The Greeks were the first to use oregano, then the Romans helped it to spread throughout Northern Africa and Europe because they liked it so much.

Oregano was first cultivated thousands of years ago and started to become really popular around the 1940s. Legend has it that soldiers returning from World War Two craved it as they remembered the pizza topped with oregano they’d enjoyed when they’d been stationed in Italy. 

A few decades later, Mexican oregano started to grow in popularity because people in the U.S. began enjoying Mexican dishes. This further helped oregano’s spread across the world.  

Types Of Oregano 

Greek Oregano

This is one of the most commonly known types of oregano. It’s sometimes referred to as “Mediterranean,” “common,” or “Italian” oregano as a result of how it’s used in many tomato-based sauces and on pizzas.

Mexican Oregano

Mexican Oregano

This is a type of oregano that’s popular in Mexico and it bursts with flavor as a result of its peppery taste. This makes it ideal for use in spicy, chili-based dishes. 

Italian Oregano

Although Greek oregano is sometimes called Italian oregano, there’s a different type of oregano specifically called Italian oregano.

It’s a blend of oregano and marjoram. It’s got a sweet flavor that makes it suitable for seasoning Italian dishes and sauces. 

Syrian Oregano

This oregano can be used interchangeably with Greek oregano. It’s commonly found in a Middle Eastern spice blend called za’atar, which contains other ingredients such as sesame seeds. 

Cretan Oregano

Cretan Oregano

This is sometimes called Turkish oregano. It’s grown in various countries, such as Turkey and Greece, and is similar in flavor to Greek oregano. 

What About Marjoram?

Although marjoram is regularly said to be a type of oregano, it’s actually a different herb altogether. It’s also part of the mint family but it has a lemony and sweet taste as compared to the savory flavor you get with oregano.

What makes it sometimes difficult to distinguish between oregano and marjoram is that they look very similar. But, marjoram has slightly hairy leaves that are grayish-green in color. By comparison, oregano’s leaves are the color of olives. 

Fresh Vs. Dried Oregano: Which One Is Better?

Fresh Vs. Dried Oregano

Do you always need to ensure you have fresh oregano on hand for cooking, or can the dried version be just as good?

The great thing about oregano is that, unlike other herbs, it doesn’t lose its flavor when it’s been dried. In fact, the flavors of both dried and fresh oregano are very similar, so you can substitute fresh oregano for dried oregano pretty easily. This is good because sometimes fresh oregano isn’t as widely available as the dried kind.  

Dried oregano is used much more for cooking than fresh oregano because of its strong flavor and how its dried form makes it easier to control its strength and flavors. Fresh oregano, by comparison, is mainly used as a garnish for various dishes.

Whether you choose to use dried or fresh oregano, you need to crush the herbs by hand before you cook with them. This releases their tasty oils. 

What Dishes To Add Oregano To For Enhanced Flavor 

There are many things you can do with dried oregano. Here are some ideas you should try.

  • Make a pesto sauce. Oregano is a staple ingredient in pesto sauces, but try recipes that include lemon, cilantro, or pistachio for extra flavor.
  • Bake bread with it. Whether fresh or dried, oregano used in bread recipes will take them to a higher level of deliciousness. This is especially great when you want to eat bread with comforting soup. The combination is fantastic.
  • Add it to meaty seafood dishes, like shrimp. Since it’s got an earthiness to it, oregano works well when added to lemon and then spooned over delicious grilled fish.
  • Add oregano to roasted potatoes. If you love creamy roasted potatoes, you can enhance their flavor with a dash of oregano. This is an especially good idea if you want to make Greek lemon potatoes. A sauce to garnish the potatoes contains lemon juice, minced garlic, semolina, and dried oregano. Using oregano in potatoes is also an Italian dish – called patate con oregano – so the pairing of potatoes with oregano is popular.
  • Make a vinaigrette. Oregano is usually mixed with olive oil to create oregano oil, which is used as an Italian vinaigrette or marinade that works beautifully with meat-based dishes. 

Tips For Growing Oregano Plants In Your Garden

Growing Oregano Plants In Your Garden

If you’d like to have easy access to delicious fresh oregano, you can grow it yourself. Here are some tips to ensure your oregano plants thrive.

  • Oregano likes to be planted in a sunny area of the garden. Make sure you plant oregano plants during the spring, after the frost.
  • You should space oregano plants eight inches apart from each other.
  • Plant oregano in well-draining soil that’s got a pH of about 6.5 to 7.0. The soil in which you plant oregano needs to be moist, so water the soil when the top inch of it feels dry.
  • When your oregano plants have grown, you need to harvest their sprigs with the use of gardening shears. Don’t prune more than a third of the plant at once.
  • Oregano plants are a target for pests such as aphids and spider mites. To prevent these, check that the plants are well drained and remove spotted or brown foliage from the plants.
  • If you want to dry the oregano leaves, you should harvest the leaves in the middle of summer when the oregano flavor is its most pungent and just before the oregano blooms. 

Related Questions

How do you substitute fresh oregano for dried oregano?

If your recipe calls for fresh oregano and you only have the dried equivalent, or vice versa, remember this rule: one tablespoon of fresh oregano is equal to one teaspoon of dried oregano. 

How should you store oregano?

Dried oregano should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Fresh oregano can be stored in the refrigerator, but keep it in a plastic bag and use it within a week. It’s also a good idea to put a damp paper towel in the bag to absorb any moisture.

Conclusion

Oregano is a versatile and tasty herb that’s best added to your cooking in dried form.

In this article, we’ve explored everything you need to know about oregano, such as its different types and how to start using it more in your kitchen.

If you love oregano, you can also start growing it – we’ve provided you with some important tips to ensure your oregano plants thrive.

Sources

Nicole

Nicole Dowdy is an avid foodie and successful restaurateur. [He/she] has dedicated nearly all her life to learning popular recipes from across the globe as well as developing new ones. Using Food Migration, Nicole Dowdy shares the very best recipes for just about every home cook looking to try something new in the kitchen. Pro chefs can also learn a few tricks on the website.Looking to improve your kitchen? You will also find awesome and high-quality kitchen utensil recommendations as well as buying guides on this website.