|If you enjoy cooking with oregano, try it fresh instead of dried. While some people prefer dried oregano to fresh because the flavor is more powerful, the beauty of the fresh herb adds a lot to the visual presentation as well as the aroma.
Oregano is a more pungent relative of marjoram—oregano is also known as wild marjoram. If you’re out of one herb, you can substitute the other. Oregano is a relatively new top spice in America: According to one source, it became popular when soldiers returning from World War II posts in Italy wanted more of it. It’s also a staple of Greek cuisine.
Oregano has the highest ORAC value of the seven super spices. As a historical note, Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, used oregano as an antiseptic (it does have excellent antimicrobial properties) and a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. Some homeopathic practitioners still use oregano to soothe a sore throat.
A dynamic duo of Mediterannean and
|As with all produce, there are different varieties that grow in different areas. Italian, Greek and Mexican oreganos, the most common, are used in similar ways. Mexican oregano, or “hot and spicy oregano,” has a more intense, powerful flavor that pairs well with chili, salsa and other Mexican dishes.
You can buy fresh oregano in the produce section of your market, but it dries out quickly and is often just a few steps removed from what you can buy in a jar. Try growing it in a pot at home. Then, don’t be shy—snip those leaves and get cooking!
While it’s most familiar in Italian dishes (the green, earthy flavor balances the acid of tomatoes), chefs use oregano in egg dishes, salads (a must with a Greek salad!), grilled vegetables, and to season lamb, beef (meatballs!) and poultry. Add some to a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette. Try it on grilled cheese sandwiches and of course, in tomato sauce and on pizza. Add oregano at the beginning of cooking (while browning onions or beef, for example) to allow time for the flavor to blend with other flavors in the dishes.
Culinary history: Manhattan Clam Chowder is actually an Italian clam soup, arriving on these shores with Italian immigrants in the late 1800s. The oregano in the recipe comes from its Italian heritage.
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