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Plant Profile: Oregano (Oreganum vulgare var. hirtum)

There are probably very few people who have not tasted oregano. It is an important herb in the cooking of many countries including Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Greece, Italy Mexico, and Spain and, besides, what American has not had pizza or spaghetti? Yet if you have grown it and cooked with it you were probably disappointed by the flavor of your home grown crop. Not surprising. First, you must have the right variety (hirtum, also known as Oreganum heracleoticum), and second, the plants grown from seed are very variable in their potential flavor. To be sure that you have good flavored leaves, go to a vendor where you can taste the leaves of your intended purchase. If the flavor is lacking, try another. Of course, if you insist on growing them from seed, let the seedlings get to the point where they are producing taste-able leaves and pick the plants with the best flavor. Once you have “the right plant” and a good supply of delectable leaves try sprinkling some minced leaves on a chunk of feta cheese drizzled with olive oil, served with crusty bread and tomatoes. And don’t overlook the ornamental virtues of oregano; they make handsome garden plants and their flowers dry well for addition to winter arrangements.

Type: Perennial herb.

Bloom: Rosy-purple to white, ¼” long tubular flowers are borne in terminal spikelets June through September.

Foliage: Oval, pointed, long leaves.

Size: 2-2 ½ ‘ H x 1-2’ W.

Light: Full sun (afternoon sun OK in South).

Soil: Average, well-drained.

Fertilizer: Fertilize established clumps in spring with general fertilizer.

Hardiness: Zones 5-10.

Care: harvest leaves before flowers appear; shear off flowers to promote leaf growth; plants can be sheared to the lowest shoots once or twice a season (June and August) to encourage bushiness.

Pests and Diseases: Susceptible to root rot, fungal disease, spider mites, aphids, leaf miners.

Propagation: Root divisions; spring cuttings; seeds (not recommended).

Outstanding Selections:

    • ‘Kent Beauty’ (ornamental and not edible)

    ‘Jim’s Favorite’ (golden)

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