Growing and cooking Oregano
The obvious changes in the kitchen garden during November move us quickly into the winter months ahead, and the change in daylight hours makes time in the garden on the fewer brighter days very precious indeed. Grab a dose of vitamin D outside whenever you can and in the meantime try to find a balance between wrapping up warm and getting the autumn jobs finished in the garden and staying inside enjoying all of the crops you’ve harvested and stored throughout the year. This time of year can be very beautiful outside, even with the rain. From enjoying the interesting seed-heads of thistles to faded hydrangeas and observing the structure of deciduous trees to enjoying the evergreen foliage keeping the garden looking alive. Remember to spend some time reflecting on your growing year and think about how you have grown along with your garden.
Oregano (Oregano vulgare)
Oregano is one of the most well known herbs, used in many culinary dishes from pizza to soups and everything in between. The name means ‘joy of the mountain’ which comes from the Greek word ‘oros’ (mountain) and ‘ganos’ (joy). Not only is it flavoursome, medicinal and easy to grow but is also supposed to bring happiness wherever it grows. As a well used Greek herb, oregano was said to be created by Aphrodite who cultivated it on Mount Olympus. It was used in bridal crowns by the ancient romans and is rumoured to open the mind to magic. If you sleep with a wreath of oregano, you may even experience physic dreams. It is from the same family as Mint, but much stronger in flavour.
How to grow
A herbaceous perennial, oregano has pretty purple flowers which are loved by pollinators. Plants can be started from seed in early spring, ideally in a propagator or you’ll find oregano regularly in nurseries in store or online. If you have sown seeds, thin them out into a small pot of peat free multi purpose compost and harden off before planting out after frosts have passed. It’s important not to overwater oregano which will also grow well in containers as long as the compost doesn’t get too wet over the winter months, so good drainage is key. Cut back the flowers after they have finished blooming in the summer and any dead stems during winter. If you want to try growing a slightly different variety of oregano,
How to use Oregano
Used medicinally as far back as ancient Greece, oregano has been used to treat muscle aches and pains, as a wound compress, to cure fungal infections, ease fever, skin conditions and stomach issues. It was even once chewed to help toothache, coughs and rheumatoid arthritis. Harvest the leaves as and when needed by cutting the stems and using the leaves which can be used in various ways either fresh or dried. There have been studies showing cancer fighting properties as well. Most often used in pizza and pasta, there is a lot more to oregano than those from vegetable dishes, oils and vinaigrettes - it is extremely versatile.
Try the shrubby Origanum ‘Hot n Spicy’ for a surprisingly spicy tang on the tongue.
As the weather gets colder, our skin is subjected to the harsher elements but oregano with its antioxidant-rich properties can soothe skin and help to fight off the signs of ageing. This oregano face pack can be used two or more times a week for a clear, fresh complexion.
225g rolled oats
1 tablespoon of sweet almond oil
3 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano
125g of water
Blend oats and oregano together until you have a flour consistency.
Mix with the oil
Add the water until the mixture is creamy (you can add in more water if needed)
Use a heaped tablespoon of the mixture on your face, avoiding your eyes, mouth and nose.
Put your feet up while it dries and dream of gardening until it’s time to wash off with warm water and a flannel.