Native to the Mediterranean basin, oregano is a cultivated variety of wild marjoram. Sweet marjoram and pot marjoram are more delicate than oregano. Used to flavour tomato dishes including tomato-topped pizzas, marjoram and oregano are popular in Balkan, French, Iberian and Italian cooking, in sauces and soups, in salad dressings, in flatbreads and countless meat and vegetable dishes.
Oregano is ubiquitous in Greek and Turkish cooking, with meat, fish, cheese, egg, fish, meat and vegetable preparations, especially dishes featuring courgettes and green beans.
It is an essential ingredient in Balkan and Greek lamb dishes, in the bouquet garni used in Niçoise dishes, in the barbagiuan cheese and vegetable pastries of Monaco, in the numerous versions of chilli con carne, in Circassian salad – green beans and tarator sauce, in crispeddi – the anchovy flatbread of Italy, in the Gibraltarian rosto pasta with meat and vegetables in tomato sauce, in Greek chickpea balls, in the Spanish anchovy, garlic, pepper and tomatoes cornmeal tarts. It is one of the primary herbs in the Argentinian adobo, the spice mixture added to chimichurri, the sauce used to accompany grilled meats. It is used in anchovy, meatball and sausage preparations because it imparts an aromatic scent and pungent flavour.
It is a popular tisane, used to relieve indigestion.
The name oregano comes from ‘joy of the mountain’ in ancient Greek, oros (mountain) and ganos (joy). In Greek mythology the sweet, spicy scent of oregano was created by Aphrodite as a symbol of happiness. In Greece couples were crowned with garlands of oregano. Oregano plants were also placed on tombs to give peace to departed spirits.
Marjoram and oregano are used fresh and dried.