Oregano
Overview
 
Oregano – scientifically named Origanum vulgare by Carolus Linnaeus
Carolus Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as , was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology...

 – is a common species of Origanum
Origanum
Origanum is a genus of about 20 species of aromatic herbs in the family Lamiaceae, native to the Mediterranean region east to eastern Asia...

, a genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 of the mint family (Lamiaceae). It is native to warm-temperate
Temperate
In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally relatively moderate, rather than extreme hot or cold...

 western and southwestern Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

 and the Mediterranean region.

Oregano is a perennial
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

 herb
Herb
Except in botanical usage, an herb is "any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume" or "a part of such a plant as used in cooking"...

, growing from 20–80 cm tall, with opposite leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 1–4 cm long. Oregano will grow in a pH range between 6.0 (mildly acid) and 9.0 (strongly alkaline) with a preferred range between 6.0 and 8.0.
Encyclopedia
Oregano – scientifically named Origanum vulgare by Carolus Linnaeus
Carolus Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as , was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology...

 – is a common species of Origanum
Origanum
Origanum is a genus of about 20 species of aromatic herbs in the family Lamiaceae, native to the Mediterranean region east to eastern Asia...

, a genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 of the mint family (Lamiaceae). It is native to warm-temperate
Temperate
In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally relatively moderate, rather than extreme hot or cold...

 western and southwestern Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

 and the Mediterranean region.

Oregano is a perennial
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

 herb
Herb
Except in botanical usage, an herb is "any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume" or "a part of such a plant as used in cooking"...

, growing from 20–80 cm tall, with opposite leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 1–4 cm long. Oregano will grow in a pH range between 6.0 (mildly acid) and 9.0 (strongly alkaline) with a preferred range between 6.0 and 8.0. The flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s are purple, 3–4 mm long, produced in erect spikes. It is sometimes called wild marjoram, and its close relative O. majorana is then known as sweet marjoram.

Description

Oregano is a perennial growing to 20 inches, with pink flowers and spade-shaped, olive-green leaves. It prefers a hot, relatively dry climate, but will do well in other environments. To cultivate, it should be planted in early spring, in fairly dry soil, with full sun. The plants should be spaced 12 inches apart.

Plant Biology

Closely related to the herb marjoram
Marjoram
Marjoram is a somewhat cold-sensitive perennial herb or undershrub with sweet pine and citrus flavours...

, oregano is also known as wild marjoram. Oregano is a perennial, although it is grown as an annual in colder climates, as it often does not survive the winter months.

Biochemistry

The main chemical constituents include carvacrol
Carvacrol
Carvacrol, or cymophenol, C6H3CH3, is a monoterpenoid phenol. It has a characteristic pungent, warm odor of oregano and a pizza-like taste.- Natural occurrence :...

, thymol
Thymol
Thymol is a natural monoterpene phenol derivative of cymene, C10H14O, isomeric with carvacrol, found in oil of thyme, and extracted from Thymus vulgaris and various other kinds of plants as a white crystalline substance of a pleasant aromatic odor and strong antiseptic properties...

, limonene
Limonene
Limonene is a colourless liquid hydrocarbon classified as a cyclic terpene. The more common D isomer possesses a strong smell of oranges. It is used in chemical synthesis as a precursor to carvone and as a renewably-based solvent in cleaning products....

, pinene
Pinene
Pinene is a bicyclic monoterpene chemical compound. There are two structural isomers of pinene found in nature: α-pinene and β-pinene. As the name suggests, both forms are important constituents of pine resin; they are also found in the resins of many other conifers, as well as in non-coniferous...

, ocimene
Ocimene
Ocimene refers to several isomeric hydrocarbons. The ocimenes are monoterpenes found within a variety of plants and fruits. α-Ocimene and the two β-ocimenes differ in the position of the isolated double bond: it is terminal in the alpha isomer. α-Ocimene is 3,7-dimethyl-1,3,7-octatriene. ...

, and caryophyllene
Caryophyllene
Caryophyllene , or -β-caryophyllene, is a natural bicyclic sesquiterpene that is a constituent of many essential oils, especially clove oil, the oil from the stems and flowers of Syzygium aromaticum , the essential oil of hemp Cannabis sativa, rosemary Rosmarinus oficinalis, and hops...

. The leaves and flowering stems are strongly antiseptic
Antiseptic
Antiseptics are antimicrobial substances that are applied to living tissue/skin to reduce the possibility of infection, sepsis, or putrefaction...

, antispasmodic
Antispasmodic
An antispasmodic is a drug or a herb that suppresses muscle spasms.-Smooth muscle spasm:One type of antispasmodics is used for smooth muscle contraction, especially in tubular organs of the gastrointestinal tract...

, carminative
Carminative
A carminative, also known as carminativum , is a herb or preparation that either prevents formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract or facilitates the expulsion of said gas, thereby combating flatulence...

, cholagogue
Cholagogue
A cholagogue is a medicinal agent which promotes the discharge of bile from the system, purging it downward.In Patrick O'Brian's book "The Post Captain," which is set in the Napoleonic era, Stephen Maturin, one of the book's main characters sits in the snug of the Rose and Crown in Deal and drinks...

, diaphoretic, emmenagogue
Emmenagogue
Emmenagogues are herbs which stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus; some stimulate menstruation. Women have used plants such as mugwort, parsley and ginger to prevent or terminate early pregnancy...

, expectorant, stimulant
Stimulant
Stimulants are psychoactive drugs which induce temporary improvements in either mental or physical function or both. Examples of these kinds of effects may include enhanced alertness, wakefulness, and locomotion, among others...

, stomachic
Stomachic
A stomachic medicine is one that serves to tone the stomach, improving its function and increasing appetite. While many herbal remedies claim stomachic effects, modern pharmacology does not have an equivalent term for this type of action....

 and mildly tonic.

Taxonomy

Many subspecies and strains of oregano have been developed by humans over centuries for their unique flavors or other characteristics. Tastes range from spicy or astringent to more complicated and sweet. Simple oregano sold in garden stores as Origanum vulgare may have a bland taste and larger, less dense leaves, and is not considered the best for culinary uses, with a taste less remarkable and pungent. It can pollinate other more sophisticated strains, but the offspring are rarely better in quality.

The related species, Origanum onites (Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

) and O. heracleoticum (Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Balkan peninsula, West Asia), have similar flavors. A closely related plant is marjoram
Marjoram
Marjoram is a somewhat cold-sensitive perennial herb or undershrub with sweet pine and citrus flavours...

 from Turkey, which, however, differs significantly in taste, because phenolic compounds
Natural phenol
Natural phenols, bioavailable phenols, plant phenolics, low molecular weight phenols or phenoloids are a class of natural products. They are small molecules containing one or more phenolic group. These molecules are smaller in size than polyphenols, containing less than 12 phenolic groups...

 are missing from its essential oil. Some varieties show a flavor intermediate between oregano and marjoram.

Notable subspecies are:
  • Origanum vulgare gracile (= O. tyttanthum) is originally from Khirgizstan, and has glossy green leaves and pink flowers. It grows well in pots or containers, and is more often grown for added ornamental value than other oregano. The flavor is pungent and spicy.
  • Origanum vulgare hirtum (Italian oregano, Greek oregano) is a common source of cultivars with a different aroma from those of O. v. gracile. Growth is vigorous and very hardy, with darker green, slightly hairy foliage. Generally, it is considered the best all-purpose culinary subspecies.
  • Origanum vulgare onites (Cretan oregano, Turkish oregano, rigani, pot marjoram) is a tender perennial growing to 18 inches tall, with pale green to gray-green woolly rounded foliage. It has a strong, intensely spicy flavor.
  • Origanum vulgare syriacum (= O. maru, Syrian oregano, Lebanese oregano, za'atar
    Za'atar
    Za'atar is a generic name for a family of related Middle Eastern herbs from the genera Origanum , Calamintha , Thymus vulgaris and Satureja . It is also the name for a condiment made from the dried herb, mixed together with sesame seeds, dried sumac, and often salt, as well as other spices...

    ) has larger leaves that vary in colors ranging from pale green to grayish. Their taste is pungent and similar to Greek oregano.


Example cultivars are:
  • Aureum – Golden foliage (greener if grown in shade), mild taste
  • Greek KaliteriO. v. hirtum strains/landrace
    Landrace
    A landrace is a local variety of a domesticated animal or plant species which has developed largely by natural processes, by adaptation to the natural and cultural environment in which it lives. It differs from a formal breed which has been bred deliberately to conform to a particular standard...

    s, small, hardy, dark, compact, thick, silvery-haired leaves, usually with purple undersides, excellent reputation for flavor and pungency, as well as medicinal uses, strong, archetypal oregano flavor (Greek kaliteri: the best).
  • Hot & SpicyO. v. hirtum strain
  • Nana – dwarf cultivar


Cultivars traded as Italian, Sicilian, etc. are usually hardy sweet marjoram (O. ×majoricum), a hybrid between the southern Adriatic O. v. hirtum and sweet majoram (O. majorana). They have a reputation for sweet and spicy tones, with little bitterness, and are prized for their flavor and compatibility with various recipes and sauces.

Culinary

Oregano is an important culinary herb, used for the flavor of its leaves, which can be more flavourful when dried than fresh. It has an aromatic, warm and slightly bitter taste, which can vary in intensity. Good quality oregano may be strong enough almost to numb the tongue, but the cultivars adapted to colder climates often have a lesser flavor. Factors such as climate, seasons and soil composition may affect the aromatic oils present, and this effect may be greater than the differences between the various species of plants.

Oregano's most prominent modern use is as the staple herb of Italian-American cuisine
Italian-American cuisine
Italian American cuisine is the cuisine of Italian American immigrants and their descendents, who have modified Italian cuisine under the influence of American culture and immigration patterns of Italians to the United States...

. Its popularity in the US began when soldiers returning from World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 brought back with them a taste for the “pizza herb”, which had probably been eaten in southern Italy for centuries. There, it is most frequently used with roasted, fried or grilled vegetables, meat and fish. Unlike most Italian herbs, oregano combines well with spicy foods, which are popular in southern Italy. It is less commonly used in the north of the country, as marjoram
Marjoram
Marjoram is a somewhat cold-sensitive perennial herb or undershrub with sweet pine and citrus flavours...

 generally is preferred.

The herb is also widely used in Turkish
Turkish cuisine
Turkish cuisine is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. Turkish cuisine has in turn influenced those and other neighbouring cuisines, including that of western Europe...

, Palestinian
Palestinian cuisine
Palestinian cuisine consists of foods from or commonly eaten by Palestinians — which includes those living in the Palestinian territories, Israel, refugee camps in nearby countries as well as by the Palestinian Diaspora...

, Syrian, Greek, Portuguese
Portuguese cuisine
Portuguese cuisine is characterised by rich, filling and full-flavored dishes and is closely related to Mediterranean cuisine. The influence of Portugal's former colonial possessions is also notable, especially in the wide variety of spices used. These spices include piri piri and black pepper, as...

, Spanish
Spanish cuisine
Spanish cuisine consists of a variety of dishes, which stem from differences in geography, culture and climate. It is heavily influenced by seafood available from the waters that surround the country, and reflects the country's deep maritime roots...

, Philippine and Latin American
Latin American cuisine
Latin American Cuisine refers to typical foods, beverages, and cooking styles common to many of the countries and cultures in Latin America...

 cuisines.

In Turkish cuisine, oregano is mostly used for flavoring meat, especially for mutton and lamb. In barbecue and kebab
Kebab
Kebab is a wide variety of meat dishes originating in Middle East and later on adopted by the Middle East, and Asia Minor, and now found worldwide. In English, kebab with no qualification generally refers more specifically to shish kebab served on the skewer...

 restaurants, it can be usually found on table, together with paprika
Paprika
Paprika is a spice made from the grinding of dried fruits of Capsicum annuum . In many European languages, the word paprika refers to bell peppers themselves. The seasoning is used in many cuisines to add color and flavor to dishes. Paprika can range from mild to hot...

, salt and pepper.

The leaves are most often used in Greece to add flavor to Greek salad
Greek salad
Greek salad is a summer salad in Greek cuisine.Greek salad is made with pieces of tomatoes, sliced cucumber, green bell peppers, red onion, sliced or cubed feta cheese, and Kalamata olives, typically seasoned with salt and dried oregano, and dressed with olive oil...

, and is usually added to the lemon-olive oil sauce that accompanies many fish or meat barbecues and some casseroles.

Oregano is also used by chefs in the southern Philippines to eliminate the odor of carabao
Carabao
The carabao or Bubalus bubalis carabanesis is a subspecies of the domesticated water buffalo found in the Philippines, Guam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and various parts of Southeast Asia...

 or beef when boiling it, while simultaneously imparting flavor.

Medicinal

Hippocrates
Hippocrates
Hippocrates of Cos or Hippokrates of Kos was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles , and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine...

 used oregano as an antiseptic, as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. A Cretan oregano (O. dictamnus) is still used today in Greece as a palliative
Palliative care
Palliative care is a specialized area of healthcare that focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients...

 for sore throat.

Oregano is high in antioxidant
Polyphenol antioxidant
A polyphenol antioxidant is a type of antioxidant containing a polyphenolic substructure. Numbering over 4,000 distinct species, many of these compounds have antioxidant activity in vitro but are unlikely to have antioxidant roles in vivo...

 activity, due to a high content of phenolic acid
Phenolic acid
Phenolic acids are a type of organic compounds. Included in that class are substances containing a phenolic ring and an organic carboxylic acid function ....

s and flavonoid
Flavonoid
Flavonoids , are a class of plant secondary metabolites....

s. It also has shown antimicrobial
Antimicrobial
An anti-microbial is a substance that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, or protozoans. Antimicrobial drugs either kill microbes or prevent the growth of microbes...

 activity against strains of the food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.

In 2005, the US Federal Trade Commission
Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act...

 brought legal action against a firm that had claimed oil of oregano treated colds and flus, and that oil of oregano taken orally treated and relieved bacterial and viral infections and their symptoms, saying the representations were false or were not substantiated at the time the representations were made, and that they were therefore a deceptive practice and false advertisements. The final stipulation on the matter said no representation as to any health benefit could be made without "…competent and reliable scientific evidence…".

Other plants called "oregano"

  • Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus, formerly Coleus aromaticus), also of the mint family (Lamiaceae). Sometimes also called "Mexican mint or Mexican thyme", it has large and somewhat succulent leaves.
  • Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) is not of the mint, but of the closely related vervain family (Verbenaceae), including, e.g., the lemon verbena
    Lemon verbena
    Aloysia citrodora is a species of flowering plant in the verbena family, Verbenaceae, that is native to Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. Common names include Lemon Verbena and Lemon Beebrush. It was brought to Europe by the Spanish in the 17th...

     (Aloysia citrodora). It is a highly studied herb that is said to be of some medical use and is common in curandera (female shamanic practices) in Mexico and the Southwestern United States
    Southwestern United States
    The Southwestern United States is a region defined in different ways by different sources. Broad definitions include nearly a quarter of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah...

    . Mexican oregano has a very similar flavor to oregano, but is usually stronger. It is becoming more commonly sold outside of Mexico, especially in the United States. It is sometimes used as a substitute for epazote
    Epazote
    Epazote, wormseed, Jesuit's tea, Mexican tea, Paico or Herba Sancti Mariæ is an herb native to Central America, South America, and southern Mexico....

     leaves; this substitution would not work the other way round.
  • Poliomintha longiflora is also occasionally called orégano in Latin America
    Latin America
    Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

    .

Etymology

Oregano is the anglicised
Anglicisation
Anglicisation, or anglicization , is the process of converting verbal or written elements of any other language into a form that is more comprehensible to an English speaker, or, more generally, of altering something such that it becomes English in form or character.The term most often refers to...

 form of the Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 word origano, or possibly of the medieval Latin organum; this latter is used in at least one Old English work. Both were drawn from the Classical Latin
Classical Latin
Classical Latin in simplest terms is the socio-linguistic register of the Latin language regarded by the enfranchised and empowered populations of the late Roman republic and the Roman empire as good Latin. Most writers during this time made use of it...

 term origanum, which probably referred specifically to sweet marjoram, and was itself a derivation from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

(origanon), which simply referred to "an acrid herb". The etymology of the Greek term is often given as oros "mountain" + the verb ganousthai "delight in", but the Oxford English Dictionary notes it is quite likely a loanword from an unknown North African language.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK