Herbs & Spices
Season for Oregano Available Year-Round
We weren't too surprised to find out that the Greek goddess Aphrodite is said to have created oregano as a symbol of happiness, the word translating to "joy of the mountain." For happiness and health go hand-in-hand, right? Beyond its culinary usage - indispensable to Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine - oregano is a super herb of health-promoting prowess. Sometimes called wild marjoram (not to be confused with sweet marjoram), oregano is indeed similar to marjoram but is not as sweet and has a more powerful, pungent flavor. Consider adding its pungency and aromatic, balsamic flavor to much more than merely your pizza top, keeping in mind that the Mediterranean variety is milder than the Mexican one. Your palate and your body will say, "thank you!"
How to Buy and Store Oregano
Though you think mostly of oregano in its flaky, dry form, it's time to make the switch to its fresh form which maintains the plant's innumerable health-promoting properties (every once in awhile at least). Fresh Greek or Italian oregano is sometimes available in gourmet produce sections of supermarkets, at specialty stores and in ethnic markets. Choose bright-green, fresh-looking bunches with no sign of wilting or yellowing. Your fresh oregano should be wrapped and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
We realize it's far more convenient to have the dried herb on hand for a dash here and there, so should you opt for that, dried Mediterranean oregano is widely available, and its more pungent counterpart Mexican oregano can be found in Latin markets (or sections). As with most dried herbs, oregano should be stored in a cool, dark place for no more than 6 months.
How to Cook Oregano
Oregano, whether in its fresh or dried form, should be added toward the end of the cooking process, as heat can cause it to quickly lose its flavor. When using fresh oregano, you can double or triple up, as oregano's flavor intensifies when dried. Oregano is a wonderfully aromatic, flavorful herb and can potentially add depth to any savory dish. It goes particularly well with tomatoes, eggplant and meats. Sprinkle some fresh oregano over your pizza of course, but also into your scrambled eggs or salad dressings, too. Sautée with mushrooms and onions or add a few sprigs to a bottle of olive oil to infuse its essence.
Health Benefits of Oregano
Oregano is one of the healthiest herbs around - probably owing to its volatile oils which are highly regarded as healing agents. In oregano you'll find thymol and carvacrol, two oils which have remarkable bacteria-fighting power. These oils also contain tremendous antioxidant activity that help keep the body healthy into our golden years and beyond. In fact, it's been found that on a per gram fresh-weight basis, oregano has demonstrated 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples! From vitamins & minerals to fiber and omega 3s, oregano need not be relegated to a sprinkle over the top of your pizza.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Oregano
You're conventional oregano has most likely been sterilized with harmful chemicals (that have been banned in Europe) - or even irradiated, which creates potentially toxic and carcinogenic by-products. By choosing certified organic oregano, you can ensure pesticide residues and toxins haven't infiltrated your spice. Plus, you'll be supporting sustainable farming practices. Your best bet? Grow your own! That way, you save money and you'll have the fresh stuff on hand with all its healing and culinary valor.