Growing Oregano for Culinary and Medicinal Purposes

Growing oregano in your garden gives you access to a highly useful and beneficial herb. Oregano is a perennial herb with a taste reminiscent of thyme – zesty and strong. It’s a hardy plant that makes for a good ground cover.

Oregano is easy to grow and offers various health benefits that you and your family can benefit from. It’s also a well-known culinary herb used in different cuisines. Here’s how to grow oregano for culinary and medicinal purposes.

Varieties of Oregano

Oregano is native to West Asia and the Mediterranean, but the common oregano is naturalized in many areas, including the United States.

There are many oregano varieties, and common names usually vary per region. Some plants are considered oregano, even if it’s not in the oregano family, but are used for the same purposes in cooking. It helps to know the botanical name, though it’s not always available at a local gardening store. Unless you want to grow it for ornamental reasons, the best option for choosing oregano is to taste and smell it.

Here are the most common varieties of oregano:

1. Common oregano (Origanum vulgare)

This is the most commonly used oregano. Sometimes known as true oregano, this one’s the familiar herb used on pizzas and tomato sauces.

2. Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare var. hirtum, Oregano heracleoticum)

This is the type of oregano most people associate with oregano flavor. It’s the one you’ll often find in the grocery store. This herb is an ingredient commonly found in Italian, Spanish, and Greek cuisine.

3. Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens)

Though it’s not technically oregano, this plant is called Mexican oregano because it’s used like oregano. It has a pepper-like flavor, so it’s used commonly in chili powders.

4. Golden oregano (Origanum vulgare var. aureum)

This type of oregano has lighter-colored leaves and a milder flavor. It’s more commonly grown for its visual appeal rather than its flavor.

5. Syrian oregano (Origanum syriacum)

This oregano variant is often used in Middle Eastern cooking for meat and vegetable recipes, but it can also be used in any recipe that needs s common oregano. It has a flavor similar to mint with a slightly spicy kick.

6. Marjoram (Origanum majorana)

Marjoram is typically used in Middle Eastern and Southern European recipes. Its flavor is a lot like Greek oregano but milder and less spicy. Its flavor can decrease when heated, so it works best when added to dishes by the end of cooking or added raw in salads.

Guide to Growing and Harvesting Oregano

  • Oregano can be easily planted using seeds, though you can propagate it by using cuttings from an established plant.
  • Plant the seeds or cuttings in well-drained, lean to average soil once all chances of frost have passed.
  • Oreganos love the sun, so make sure you plant it in an area that receives full, strong sunlight for strong flavor. Some people prefer to plant it later in the season for assured warm weather. Offer partial shade if growing it in warm climates.
  • Plant oregano eight to ten inches apart. These plants will grow for about one to two feet tall and spread about 18 inches.
  • Keep soil moist and water when the top inch becomes dry. However, avoid overwatering the oregano since it causes root rot.
  • You can start harvesting when plants have reached four to five inches in height. Cutting the stems closer to the ground will encourage more growth from the base and keep a fuller look.
  • Harvest sprigs using sharp gardening shears. Avoid pruning one-third of the plant or more at a time.
  • When harvesting, cut aerial parts to encourage a bushy habit.
  • If the plant gets too big when planted in a container, divide the plant. Carefully dig around the root ball and separate a portion of roots and stems from the main plant. Work gently so as not to disturb the plant so much. Transplant it in your garden or in a new container.

Using Oregano for Food

Oregano is a common cooking herb – a staple in a well-stocked kitchen. To use it fresh, cut the stems, rinse, pat dry, and pull off the leaves. To dry it, cut the stems and hang them in bunches upside down until completely dry and crispy. Remove the dried leaves from the stems, and crush them between your palms before adding them to recipes.

Here’s how you can use it for culinary purposes:

  • Add oregano to any tomato-based dish.
  • Pair it with basil, thyme, garlic, or onion.
  • Season pasta dishes with oregano, as well as most foods that contain olive oil.
  • Steam whole sprigs of oregano and rosemary when cooking seafood to add a lovely, herbal flavor. Add a few large leaves of basil.
  • Add dried oregano to canned soups for extra flavor during lazy dinner nights.

Using Oregano for Medicine

The oregano leaf is often used in natural remedies and is a powerful alternative to prescription drugs and antibiotics. Adding a fresh herb to your meals and drinking homemade oregano tea can help reduce illness, especially when exposed to sickness, like when visiting a hospital or traveling. And since it has strong anti-viral and antimicrobial properties, it can help with both internal and external infections.

Oregano is used for respiratory tract disorders like coughs, croup, asthma, and bronchitis. It’s also used for gastrointestinal disorders like bloating or heartburn. Other uses include treating urinary tract infections, menstrual cramps, headaches, and heart conditions.

Here’s how you can use oregano for medicinal purposes:

1. Drink oregano juice concentrate.

Making a juice out of oregano leaves is a natural way to relieve cough, colds, and flu.

  • Pick at least ten or more big, green oregano leaves (the more leaves, the higher concentration).
  • Place these leaves in a small bowl, and pour some newly boiled water to soften them.
  • Remove water.
  • Press the leaves using a spoon to squeeze out the juice. Alternatively, you can use a small muslin cloth for squeezing.
  • Throw out the leaf residues and drink. If the taste is too strong for your liking, add honey and/or lemon to sweeten it and make it tastier.

2. Prepare oregano tea to relieve sickness.

Oregano tea is great for colds and flu, relaxes nerves, and settles an upset stomach.

  • Pick at least ten or more big, green oregano leaves.
  • Boil the leaves with water.
  • Drink the tea. Add lemon and/or honey to make the tea tastier.

3. Make a cough syrup for oregano.  

Mix garlic with oregano to make an effective, homemade cough syrup.

  • Boil two sprigs of oregano and two cloves of garlic in about ½ cup of water. Let it boil for about five minutes.
  • Let the mixture cool for a few minutes, then pour into a cup with ½ cup of honey.
  • Drink.

4. Use oregano essential oil for different ailments.

  • Diluted oregano essential oil can be helpful to speed up the recovery of different ailments. Here’s how you can use oregano essential oil:
  • Dilute oregano essential oil in coconut oil and apply topically to skin infections, athlete’s foot, and fungal infections to boost healing.
  • Dilute it with olive oil and rub it on sore muscles and joints for pain relief.
  • Mix it with coconut oil as part of an oil pulling routine for healthy gums.
  • Dilute it with a carrier oil to take orally to help with allergies.
  • Diluted oregano oil can also be used in getting rid of ringworms.
  • It can remove warts effectively when applied diluted with a carrier oil.