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Oregano From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

Oregano From A to Z: 26 Things to Know

From Aphrodite to the Zombies, from the benefits of oregano to its nutritional facts and history: here are 26 facts and figures to know if you like oregano.

By FDL on

Aphrodite. According to legend, it was the Greek goddess of love and romanticism, Aphrodite, who planted oregano for the first time and gave it its fragrance.

Bristol grass. A variety whose flowers take on shades of pink, violet and blue. It looks beautiful in hanging baskets and, as well as being decorative, can also be used to aromatize food.

Contraband. Not just weapons and illegal immigrants: the Greek-Albanian border is an entry point for smuggling herbs which are gathered illegally on the Greek mountains and destined for sale in other European countries. The herb species most frequently involved in this traffic is wild oregano.

Dittany of Crete. Origanum dictamnus grows on the mountains of the Greek Island of Crete. Its rounded leaves are covered with a grey-white velvety down. It is renowned as an ingredient for use in condiments, with a subtler flavour than that of common oregano, and as a medicinal plant for topical use, especially to treat sore throats. It is now a protected species.

Encouragement. In the language of flowers, it has always been considered a plant that brings comfort, relief and good health.

Flavonoids and phenols. Oregano has 20 times more antioxidants than other herbs – 12 times more than oranges and 46 times more than apples.

Greek Kaliteri. Kaliteri in Greek means “the best”: this cultivar, rich in oils, targets a gourmet market in Greece and is considered to be an archetype of the oregano aroma.

Harry Potter. Its essence instantly heals wounds and cuts: this is Dittany, which is referred to several times in the Harry Potter saga.

Italian. A fine oregano for use in cooking, with its assertive and delicious flavour.

Jim Best. Renowned for its unusual green-gold variegated leaves. This variety is used for decorative purposes as well as in cooking.

Kalabaw. This variety of domestic water buffalo is an animal of symbolic importance in the Philippines. When its meat is boiled, a generous quantity of oregano is thrown into the saucepan to eliminate its strong smell and impart flavour. Generally speaking, this herb is well suited to heavily flavoured meat, such as lamb.

Liquor. Vermouth, absinthe, grappa: many alcoholic drinks and liquors may be aromatized with oregano, from which an excellent limoncino-type infusion can be obtained.

Mexican oregano. A fundamental ingredient in Mexican cooking, oregano also plays an important role in the folk medicine of this country. The oregano used locally is actually Lippia Graveolens, a culinary herb similar to verbena with a citrus accent and a more pronounced flavour than that of Origanum Vulgare.

Natural remedy. The therapeutic benefits of this plant have been widely studied and range from antiseptic to analgesic properties (useful for treating rheumatism and migraine for instance); it is also antispasmodic, expectorant, stomachic and tonic.

Origanum Majorana. Marjoram belongs to the same family as oregano; in fact it is one of the two main species together with Origanum Vulgare.

Purple. Purple oregano, would you believe. Butterflies love the flowers of this variety which blooms in spring and autumn and can survive on very little water, making it an ideal choice for the garden with its attractive scent and colour.

Quite evanescent. Dry oregano is a must in any kitchen worthy of the name but it needs to be replaced frequently since it loses its pungency very quickly.

Rose. The two ornamental varieties with their large drooping flowers are particularly beautiful: Kent beauty, which flowers in drooping whorls all summer long and into the autumn, and Amethyst Fall, with its pink-purple cascading sprays.

Salad. Oregano is excellent eaten fresh and can also be added to salads for a pleasingly aromatic note.

Tomatoes. The perfect combination: in tomato sauce, on pizzas, pasta and many other tomato-based dishes.

Upside down. How must fresh oregano be dried? Once you have selected the best sprigs – with luminous colours and blemish-free leaves – hang the bunch upside down with a string and keep it in a warm, well-aired place.

Vulgare. Different types of oregano are used for culinary purposes. The most common is Origanum Vulgare, which originates from Mediterranean zones.

White marjoram. Origanum Onites, also known as Sicilian or Turkish oregano, only grows in some areas of this Italian Island, Greece or Turkey. Its taste is bitterer than that of the Vulgare, but also more lingering.

Xxx. Young men used to climb precipitous mountain gorges – and sometimes died in the attempt – to pick it and offer it to their lovers: they were called 'Erondades', love seekers. Brides used to add it to their wine to ensure that the couple enjoyed a long and happy sex life. Dittany of Crete, here it is again, has always been considered an aphrodisiac and a symbol of love, 'eronda' being one of its names.

Yanks. Oregano became popular in the United States thanks to the soldiers who returned from the Second World War, raving about the “pizza herb” they had tasted in southern Italy, which was destined to become an essential ingredient of Italian-American cuisine.

Zombie survival. The secret is: essential oil of oregano. A single drop on a bandage can prevent infection in the case of an open wound; diluted in water, it makes an excellent mouthwash and a hygienic hand washing product; used internally, it combats bacteria and viruses and boosts the immune system.

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