Marjoram Herb: Health Benefits, Uses, Facts

FR: Marjolaine, Origan

GER: Maigram, Mairan, Majoran, Wurstkraut IT: Maggiorana

SP: Mejorana, Amaraco or Almaraco

BOT: Origanum majorana or Majorana hortensis

FAM: Labiatae

Marjoram Herb: Health Benefits, Uses, Facts Photo Gallery




ILL: Plate 13, No. 8; Plate 14, Nos. 5, 5a sweet or knotted marjoram is native to the Mediterranean, and has been cultivated as a flowering herb since ancient times. It is a strongly perfumed herb growing one to two feet high, and characterized by the many tiny ‘knots’ which it produces. In warm countries it is perennial but in colder countries it has to be treated as a half hardy annual as it will not survive a cold winter. It requires a good but light soil and plenty of sun. Although the seedlings are best raised in a warm glass house, it is possible to broadcast a patch in late spring or to germinate the seeds in a window box filled with good compost and then put the seedlings outside when the weather becomes warmer.

There should be about nine inches between plants. Unlike most of the labiate herbs, sweet marjoram (like basil) is sweeter when it is not grown under tough conditions.

Marjoram may be used as a fresh herb, and it dries well. It is also suitable for quick freezing.

There is therefore no reason why marjoram should not be available in the kitchen throughout the year.

The flavour of marjoram is related to thyme, with which it is often mixed or replaced, but it is much more sweet and scented. When fresh it can have an almost flower-like perfume. This is one of the most important of all kitchen herbs and has an enormous number of uses. It is used in virtually every country in Europe and the countries with cooking based on European cooking, though not used so greatly in the East.

Marjoram can be added to practically any dish in which one would use thyme, but because of its more delicate perfume, which is easily lost in cooking, it is at its best when added shortly before the end of cooking or used in dishes which are cooked very little, such as an omelette. It may also be used raw. For instance, it is particularly delicious finely chopped and with lemon juice used as a dressing for anchovies. pot marjoram (Origanum onites) is frequently grown because sweet marjoram is not hardy, although it has nothing like as sweet a flavour and is even slightly bitter. This is also a Mediterranean plant. It grows about a foot high and the flowers are white. It prefers good light soil and sun but is otherwise easy to grow. Propagation is by seed or by root division and the plant is perennial. Pot marjoram can be used to some extent for the same purposes as sweet marjoram especially in the more strongly flavoured dishes such as with onion, wine and garlic, where the delicate perfume of sweet marjoram would, in any case, be largely lost. It grows wild in Greece and is one of the plants they call rigani.

In Greece there are no less than ten different wild species of origanum known commonly under the name of rigani. One of these known as winter marjoram (Origanum heraclesticum) is sometimes cultivated in gardens. Other species are Origanum smymaicum and Origanumpaniflorum. Rigani are used with grilled meats and other Greek dishes, but it is almost impossible at present to buy the authentic herbs and reproduce exactly the flavour of such dishes outside that country.

Another long famous species of origanum commonly known as Cretan dittany is particularly cultivated on the island of Crete (it is known as dictamo, ditamo, erontas, stomatochorto and malliaro-chorto), and is used mainly for medicinal purposes though also as a food flavouring.

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