The oregano is a very versatile herb when it comes to cooking. The flavor induced by this culinary herb after drying adds not only taste but also aroma to the dishes. This herb spread all around from the kitchens of Italy and is now a favorite seasoning of so many all around the world.
It is a perennial herb belonging to the mint family of plants. Oregano is closely related to the Marjoram herb and is also often called – the Wild Marjoram.
It grows in bushy herbs which can reach up to a height of 80 cms. It has opposite facing leaves which are shaped like spades and are olive green in hue. These plants tend to have small purple flowers that grow on spiky stems.
Oregano is originally a Mediterranean plant and is grown in regions of Greece, Italy, Turkey, Mexico, etc. Oregano usually does not survive the winter season and are planted during spring. These herbs make a fit position in culinary as well as in medicine.
Oregano in India
The branched out woody oregano plants are natively grown in Mediterranean regions and grow well in regions with a temperate to sub-tropical climate.
Due to the climate and temperature preferences of this herb, in India, it is grown in the temperate Himalayas, regions of Kashmir and Sikkim.
In India, Oregano has its regional name and is often called – Sathra, Mirzanjosh, etc. Plant growth mediums, light, water as well as soil requirements are specific for its proper growth.
This plant requires a lot of sun exposure to grow well. Well-drained and light sandy soil supports the growth of Oregano. The plant needs a slightly alkaline soil with pH ranging from 6 to 8.
How to grow Oregano?
The best time to plant oregano is after the winter months have passed and spring has arrived. Summer and springtime support the proper growth of oregano as the plant does not tolerate frost or even cold weather.
If the climatic conditions are colder in the growing region, the plants may be grown indoors and can be shifted outdoors during summertime. These herbs are also grown using hydroponics.
– Oregano can be propagated through both, either seeds or through stem cuttings from previous plants. Seeds from the market come with a 3/4th chance of them growing.
To grow Oregano using sections of stems selected from previously grown and properly established oregano plant, a clean and healthy stem must be chosen.
– The stem cuttings or seeds must be grown in soil that has proper aeration, is well-drained and light. Sandy soils are often suitable for these herbs. Moderately fertile soil does just as well for the cultivation of this plant.
– This herb enjoys bright and full sunshine. Sunlight exposure is an absolute must for the growth of these flavoring herbs.
– To provide the growing plants with proper space, to prevent over-crowding and to have less competition in the soil, the plants from the beginning must be positioned with enough space.
They grow up to a height of 80cms and can be around 2ft in breadth. It is hence advisable to grow the plants with an almost 12inch distance in between seeds planted or stem cuttings.
If grown in pots or containers at home, they must be checked for special efficiency which can support the height and width of the plant.
– These plants are slow growers and the seeds often sprout at a slow pace. The seeds of stems may take time to grow and thus patience and proper care is the key.
Seeds usually take around 10 days to sprout. The timing can vary based upon the intensity of sun and temperature, soil and water conditions, etc. It is better to use fresh seeds as seeds that are preserved for long often lose their ability to grow well. Stem cuttings may be healthy and it is better if the bottom-most leaves of the cutting are removed.
– When it comes to watering a growing oregano plant, they must be regularly provided with water in the initial days of planting. Once the plants have sprouted they can be watered less frequently.
Dry topsoil where the plant is growing is an indication of the next watering schedule. The oregano plants that are potted in containers can be provided with water until the soil is entirely wet and the water starts to slowly drain out of the bottom holes on the container.
Over-watering your oregano makes the roots vulnerable to rotting. The amount of water must be moderate and watering more than necessary must be avoided.
– Trimming the plant at necessary intervals of time is also important. Snipping off the leaves from the topmost tip of the plant is an easy way to prune them. Trimming is essential as it helps the stems to bear more leaves.
The plant does not get leggy and rather develops more leaves and becomes bushy. When the plant is well-established and has reached around a 4-inch height, they can be trimmed to encourage leafy bloom and to prevent stunted growth. The trimmed away parts of the plant can be put to use as seasoning for your food.
– As the plants get older, their quality starts to slowly degrade with age. Newer plants and fresher growth provides more flavorful oregano.
Old and unhealthy looking plants can be removed to facilitate better growth of newer saplings. Plants that are around three or four years old must be the first ones to be removed as they would have lost their essence by now.
– Weeds growing in the soil in between your oregano plantation can pose competition in the soil for sunlight, water and can even take up the majority of nutrients.
It is, therefore, necessary to check your gardens or pots for weed growth and these weeds must be uprooted in order to facilitate better growth of your oregano.
– Monthly fertilizing with a safe liquid fertilizer is recommended for oregano plants.
– Make sure that the pesticides that you use in your oregano are particularly made for use on edible plants. It is rather advisable to restrain from using pesticides on your oregano plants.
With all the proper growing needs in mind you can grow oregano in your Indian gardens, be it in pots, containers, or in the soil. With the proper care, maintenance, and time, your aromatic oregano herbs can be ready to be used.
Picking, drying and using the Oregano:
Just like growing oregano plant needs some specifications, so does the use of the herb once it is ready to be used. The appearance of flowers on the plant is an indication of the herb being ready to harvest and use.
– After the oregano leaves look healthy and mature enough to be used, gather bunches of leaves from your oregano plant. Let some portions of the stems to remain so that the plants can keep growing.
– Wash the leaves that you freshly clipped from your plants before you let it to dry, as it is always necessary to clean vegetables and herbs before consuming them.
– After gathering bunches of oregano leaves from your garden, make sure you bundle them in lightly. Do not bunch too many leaves together as it may lead to uneven drying of leaves. You can use string or elastic to tie the bundles together.
– To dry the oregano you must provide it with indirect sunlight. Harsh and strong direct sunlight can cause moisture build-up and make the leaves moist, thus harming the drying process and also making it vulnerable to microbe growth.
– To dry your bundled oregano in indirect sunlight keep it indoors, or cover it with a light airy material to let in indirect heat. It can be kept in paper bags with holes in them to facilitate drying of the leaves in indirect sun.
– The bundles can also be hung outside in the warm environment to let the leaves dry. It should be kept out of direct sunlight. The time required by the leaves varies from place to place and climate. It may either take days or weeks before its entirely dried.
– With enough exposure to indirect sunlight, the leaves will turn slightly dull and brittle. At this point, your oregano leaves are ready to be used. Gather the brittle leaves, crumble in a powdery texture, and separate the stems from the leaves. Store according to your comfort and your oregano is ready for the kitchen.
Uses of Oregano:
– Oregano is a very popular culinary herb. It is popularly used as seasonings for pizzas, pasta, and many other dishes. Oregano seasoning adds a bitter and pungent flavor which enhances the taste of food.
– Oregano mixed in olive oil creates oregano oil which is very flavorful and is used in garnishing or marinades.
– Consumption of oregano has various health benefits. It contains numerous minerals like iron, calcium, manganese, etc. It also has vitamin A, K and C. Oregano is also rich in fiber and has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities.
MEDICINAL USES AND BENEFITS:
Oregano as seasoning herbs, oil or tea can be very beneficial to health and it has numerous uses in medicine and can treat several physical as well as mental issues.
– Oregano oil has a lot of health benefits. It is used as a remedy for sore throats, nausea, nasal congestion, cold sores, muscle cramps, joint pains, poor digestion, diarrhea, asthma, skin sores, etc.
– Oregano has very low calorie content and almost amounts to zero-calorie when used as seasonings on your pizza. 2 teaspoons of oregano contain no calories.
– Oregano helps to fight damage against free radicals in the body system which leads to fatal diseases like cancer and chronic heart diseases.
– Research has also found that using oregano can fight bacteria, regulate blood sugar levels, and lipids. It also boosts overall body immunity.
– It also helps with diabetes. It improves insulin resistance, regulates genes that affect fat, carbohydrate, and metabolism.
– Oregano contains carvacrol and thymol which helps to prevent melanoma cells which is responsible for causing skin cancer.
– Oregano has also been experimentally proven to be helpful in treating depression caused due to unpredictable stress.
– Applying oregano oil on the skin can help treat acne, athlete’s foot, dandruff, toothaches, warts, wounds, ringworm, psoriasis, insect bites, varicose veins, etc.
Side effects of Oregano:
– Oregano oil is said to be very intense and strong. It should be used in diluted forms which contain lesser than 1 percent of oregano extract because they tend to make the skin irritable if the oil is too concentrated.
– Increased intake of oregano can be problematic during pregnancy and feed-feeding. Consuming more than normal food amounts of oregano can lead to miscarriages. Intake of oregano must be in monitored amounts even while the breastfeeding period.
– People with bleeding disorders are at a risk with the consumption of oregano as it can heighten their conditions.
– Oregano may also hamper the body’s capacity to take in zinc, copper and iron.
– The ones who are allergic to plants belonging to the Lamiaceae family such as mint, marjoram, basil, lavender etc. may experience the same risk when it comes to oregano.
– People with recent surgical experiences, or ones who are about to go under surgery must discontinue the consumption of oregano before and after 2 weeks of the same.
– Oregano is claimed to be useful in reducing blood sugar levels, but diabetic patients must keep a check on their intake of oregano.
Therefore, with all the benefits and side-effects, it is recommended to have oregano in suitable food quantities and not more than that.
Extracts of oregano must also be used in lesser concentrations to prevent any harm or detrimental effects of it on our body.
This multi-purpose herb can be grown and cultivated in India as well with just the right amount of care and provisional conditions for growth. It can also be grown at home and all you garden enthusiasts can enjoy your homegrown oregano seasonings on your pizzas!