Monday, September 27, 2010

Oregano - Herb of the Mediterranean

Oregano is an herb most thought of as an ingredient in many types of Italian food. Oregano has a wonderfully aromatic and warm smell when used in Italian dishes like pizza and it is a great compliment to any tomato-based pasta sauce. But it is actually an herb that is used in all types of Mediterranean cooking, and is an ingredient in Mexican cuisine. Mexican oregano is thought to be the strongest variety. Oregano is sometimes confused with marjoram. The two herbs are somewhat similar, but marjoram (also called sweet marjoram) is milder and has a slight sweet flavor.

Oregano originates from Northern Europe, and grows in many other areas of the world. Ancient Greeks and Romans treasured the herb not only for cooking. They considered it to represent joy and happiness and would present bunches of it to newlywed couples. The name oregano is derived from ancient Greek and means 'Joy of the mountain'. Oregano is also a very healthy herb, and is high in anti-oxidants and is a good anti-bacterial. It is a good source of dietary fiber, iron, manganese, calcium, and vitamins A and C.

Fresh oregano is preferred over dried as the flavor is more intense and complex. Whether it is used fresh or dried, oregano should be added towards the end of the cooking time of a dish, as too much heat can lessen its flavor. A few sprigs of fresh oregano can be put into a bottle of olive oil to flavor it. Like many herbs, oregano is easy to grow. Plant a few seeds in a spot that gets full sun and where the soil is well drained and not too rich. In areas of the U.S that have harsh winters, the plant can be grown as an annual, as a perennial in milder climates. It also does well as a potted plant. Pick fresh oregano from the plant just before flowers appear for the best flavor.

Whether used for Italian, Spanish, Mexican or Greek dishes, oregano is one of the great herbs that not only imparts good flavor and aroma, but also is very healthy.

My Zimbio