Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Oregano originates from the Mediterranean and is closely related to marjoram. Its pungency is in direct proportion to the amount of sun it receives. It grows to a height of about 8 inches with woody stems and dark green leaves around 3/4 inch long. Small, white flowers are borne on long spikes.
The plant demands a well-drained soil in full sun. Plant seeds in warm soil in late spring or in pots or seed trays under glass in mid-spring. Plants can be moved outdoors when the temperatures are expected to remain above 45 degrees. Oregano is best treated as an annual in cold climates where it will not overwinter well. When grown as a perennial, roots should be divided every 3 years for best growth and flavor. Older plants It will do well as a potted plant as long as it receives lots of sun. As with most herbs, remove dead wood and flowers as necessary.
Begin harvesting the leaves and stem tips when plants are 4 to 5 inches high. The flavor will improve after the flower buds form, just before flowering. To harvest, cut the stem tops down to the first two sets of leaves. New stems and shoots will grow, producing second and sometimes third crops. Dry the leaves in a warm, dry, shaded place, and store them in an airtight container.
For the best flavor, add oregano in the last few minutes of cooking. The flavor can become bitter if cooked more than 30 minutes. Add it to salads, casseroles, soups, sauces, pates and poultry dishes. Dried oregano is especially good with tomatoes, beans, eggplant, zucchini and rice dishes such as pilaf and risotto.