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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Oregano

Oregano:

About:

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a memeber ot the mint family.  It is sometimes called "wild marjoram" with sweet marjoram being a close relative.  Oregano is an important culinary herb used for the flavor of its leaves, which can be more flavorful when dried than when fresh.  It has an aromatic, warm and slightly bitter taste, which can vary in intensity.  Good quality oregano may be strong enough to almost numb the tongue.  Oregano adds a warm, balsamic, and aromatic flavor to many dishes.  The name "oregano" is translated  as "mountain joy". 

Uses:

Oregano's most prominent  modern use is a staple herb of Italian-American cuisine.  It's popularity in the U.S. began when soldiers returning from W.W. II brought back with them a taste for the "pizza herb", which probably had been eaten in southern Italy for cneturies.  In Italy it is most commonly used with roasted, fried, or grilled vegetables, meat , and fish.  Oregano is also widely used in Turkish, Palestinian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Syrian, Greek, Portugese, Italian, Spanish Philippine, and Latin American cuisine.

History:

Oregano is native to northern Europe.  It has been recognized for its aromatic properties since ancient times with the Greeks and Romans holding oregano as a symbol of joy and happiness.  Greek and Roman brides and grooms were often crowned with a laurel of oregano.   France has cultivated oregano since the Middle Ages and it has become an important herb in Mediterranean cuisine. 
Oregano was hardly known in the U.S. until the early 20th century when G.I.s returning from Italy brought back word of this fragrant and delicious herb.  

My Story:

My first exposure to oregano was as a kid, when my cousins taught me how to make a mini-pizza.  We often had grilled cheese sandwiches, especially on Fridays and during Lent.  Well, here's how they would turn it into a pizza.   Just add a slice or two of fresh tomato and sprinkle with some dried oregano, grill as always, and you had the taste of pizza.   Pizza grilled cheese sandwiches were always a treat, even to this day. 

Nutrition:

Oregano is an excellent source of vitamin K; a very good source of manganese; and a good source of iron, fiber, and calcium.


Health Benefits:

In the myths of folk medicine Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments.  Oregano contains polyphenols, including many flavones.   The volatile oils in this spice include thymol and carvacrol which have been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria.  Oregano contains numerous phytonutrients which function as potent antioxidants that can prevent oxygen based damage to cell structures throughout the body.  

According to the Natural Medicine Comprehensive  Database oregano is used for the following illnesses and conditions, usually in the form of oil of oregano:

Cold                 Muscle pain                 Acne
Dandruff          Bronchitis                    Toothache
Bloating           Headache                     Heart condition
Allergies          Intestinal Parasites       Ear ache
Fatigue            Repelling insects          Mensral cramps




Season:

Oregano is available throught the year.

Selecting and Storing:

When possible choose fresh oregano over dried for its superior flavor.  Choose oregano with a vibrant green color and firm stems.  Avoid dark spots or yellowing. 
Fresh oregano should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel.

Dried oregano should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a dark, dry place where it will last up to 6 months.








So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


How to Enjoy Oregano:

  • Garnish your pizza with fresh oregano
  • Add to sauteed mushrooms and onions
  • Add a few sprigs to a container of olive oil to infuse the oil with the essence of oregano
  • Fresh oregano is an aromatic addition to omlets and frittatas
  • Sprinkle chopped oregano on homemade garlic bread
  • Add oregano to salad dressing
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