[Sweet Marjoram, Knotted Marjoram; Origanum majorana]
Native to the Mediterranean region, marjoram was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans. It remains one of the most important herbs used in the cuisines of Mediterranean Europe and the Levant. Marjoram is as often as not used dried as it holds flavors well while drying. Flavor holds better if the leaves are removed from the stems for drying.
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[Wild Marjoram; Origanum vulgare]
Native to the Mediterranean region and farther inland, this herb is much used in Italian-American cuisine (as distinct from Italian cuisine, which is quite different). It is used in southern Italy, but the more gentle Marjoram is preferred to the north. Oregano also finds plenty of application in Portugal, Spain, Greece, Turkey, the Levant and Egypt, as well as Latin America and the Philippines. Oregano is used more dried than fresh, as its flavors intensify when dried. Flavor holds better if the leaves are removed from the stems for drying.
More on Mint Family.
Buying: Fresh Marjoram and/or Oregano can be found in the herb section of most modern supermarkets, and at some farmer's market where herbs are sold.
Dried is available in the spice section of most supermarkets, but is better purchased from ethnic markets which have a high turn over. Buy only whole leaf, never powdered. To substitute dry for fresh, use about 1/3 the measure.
Growing: Marjoram and Oregano can be grown in most regions of North America, but in the cooler climates it must be treated as an annual because they are rather cold sensitive.
Storing: Loosely wrapped, fresh marjoram and oregano will last about a week in the fridge, if they were in good shape to start with.
Drying: If you can buy large bundles cheaply at a farmer's market, or grow your own, it is quite easy to dry. I prefer to remove the leaves from the stems for drying to prevent any of the flavoring elements from retreating into the stems.
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