Oregano (Origanum Vulgare)
Oregano originates from the Mediterranean and is related to marjoram. The amount of sun it receives directly affects its potency. Oregano grows to a height of 8 inches with woody stems and dark green leaves about 3/4 inch long. It produces small, white flowers on long spikes.
The plant needs well-drained soil in full sun. Plant seeds in warm soil in late spring or in pots or seed trays indoors in mid-spring. Plants can be moved outdoors when the temperatures are consistently above 45 degrees. Oregano is best treated as an annual in cold climates. Every three years perennial oregano should be divided for the best growth and to help retain the pungent flavor. Oregano will do well as a potted plant as long as it receives adequate sunlight. As with most herbs, remove dead wood and flowers.
Begin harvesting the leaves and stem tips when plants are 4 to 5 inches high. The flavor will improve after the flower buds form, just before flowering. To harvest, cut the stem tops down to the first two sets of leaves. New stems and shoots will grow, producing second and sometimes third crops. Dry the leaves in a warm, dry, shaded place, and store them in an airtight container.
For the best flavor, add oregano in the last few minutes of cooking. The flavor can become bitter if cooked more than 30 minutes. Add it to salads, casseroles, soups, sauces, pates and poultry dishes. Dried oregano is especially good with tomatoes, beans, eggplant, zucchini and rice dishes such as pilaf and risotto.