Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare Hirtum)

Greek oregano
Greek oregano

Greek oregano is a member of the mint family that is a Mediterranean weed, but one which is much prized.  While best known for giving pizza it’s “pizza” flavor, it is widely used in Mediterranean cooking and even as a component of american style chili powder.  It is also used as a mild topical anesthetic and a calming tea.  (All the mints are mildly sedative when infused.)  Like most herbs, oregano has a beneficial nutrient profile with many healthy chemical components, but you are unlikely to eat more than a thimbleful

Transplants are widely available, as are seeds.  Seeds require patience: germination rates are less than 75% and can take up to two weeks.  Scatter seeds on top of the soil; do not bury them.  Oregano prefers full sun in a relatively dry well-drained soil loamy or gravelly soil, but it will grow in part shade (3-4 hours of sun daily) and can even prefer it in hotter climates.  It’s hardy to about zone 7 and sometimes 6.  For those in colder climes, root divisions can winter indoors in a sunny window or in a pot which is brought into a sheltered location like a basement or garage when the temperature drops below the teens.  A pot, in fact, is not a bad idea for oregano.  Like all mints, it spreads outward from the roots and can be difficult to eradicate once established.  You won’t want to be removing mint from your herb garden… but you probably don’t want it to squeeze out anything else.

During the winter, oregano is evergreen and is a low growing mound just a few inches high.  When warm weather arrives, it puts on new foliage and blooms, forming an attractive, slightly shaggy yellow-green mound with tiny white blooms that attract numerous pollinators to your garden.

It can be harvested at any age, but the best flavor occurs from spring to fall when it’s in a strong growth cycle.  Oregano has a little bitter flavored when used fresh, but dries well in a warm shady location and maintains good quality when stored for up to a year.