A Bit More On Herbs

Specifically, oregano.  Surely oregano is one of the most popular herbs used in cooking, and is one of the easiest to grow in the herb garden. But if you think all oregano is created equal, you’d be wrong.  There are several herbs with similar flavors that have “oregano” included in the common name of the plant: Mediterranean Oregano, Mexican Oregano, and Cuban Oregano to name a few.  Sometimes these plants are not even in the same family, but can often be used in similar ways.  If you want to grow them for cooking, though, you need to learn the differences, as even though they are similar in taste, they will not add the same flavor to your dishes.  I’m not an expert on oregano, by any means, but here are a couple I have grown, and some information for those of you who would like to know some of the differences.

The mainstay of Italian cooking would have to be Mediterranean oregano, and it is the one most commonly sold (at least around here) as potted plants for your herb gardens.  It is a low growing, spreading sprawl of a plant, with smallish leaves and the flavor you associate with pizza and spaghetti sauce.  It is easy to grow, at least for me, and in Florida becomes a tender perennial which lasts years in my garden, even if neglected.  It is a member of the mint family.

Mediterranean or Common Oregano (Oreganum vulgare)

oregano

Mexican oregano is known to have a similar but much stronger flavor than Common or Mediterranean oregano. It is less sweet, with a hint of citrus.  It is a member of the verbena family (which is probably why it reminds me so much of lantana), and makes a small, deciduous shrub.  It goes better with Mexican foods, such as chili, than with Italian dishes.

Mexican Oregano (Lippia graveolens)

mexican oregano leaves

The third “oregano” I have grown is sold as Cuban oregano around here, though it may be sold under different common names in other parts of the country.  It is really an attractive plant, having large, fleshy leaves, and comes in a green form, or a variegated one.  One leaf chopped up is enough to season quite a big dish, so use it sparingly. The plant has been grown commercially, and is used as herbal treatments for coughs and throat problems, though I would urge caution before using any herb for medicinal purposes unless you know what you are doing.  Just because something is natural, home-grown, or organic doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous if used incorrectly.  But this plant is so pretty, I grow it just for the hairy, variegated leaves alone. It is a plectranthus, related to Swedish ivy, and several other ornamentals. The plant has an upright growth habit, and looks great mixed in with various coleus.

Cuban Oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus)

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And there you have it.  A bit of info on three plants sold as oregano that can actually be used in cooking, as well as just for pleasure in your garden.  Google the Latin names and you will find tons of information on how to grow them, if you aren’t sure what will work in your area.

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20 thoughts on “A Bit More On Herbs

  1. Fascinating. Actually I am not that fond of my oregano, which I now have learned is the “common” variety. I’ll pay more attention to what is for sale next spring! Thanks for the information.

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    • HI, Sue!
      As I mentioned in one of the earlier posts, I grow a lot of herbs because I like the look and smell of them in the garden, rather than because I remember to snip them for cooking. I don’t even know if I have ever tried any of my oregano’s for cooking. I just particularly like the mounding habit of the Mediterranean one and the tall, fleshy leaves of the Cuban one. But this year, I’m going to try to be better about actually using some of them.Hope you find some new ones to try this spring. Let me know if you do.

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  2. I love Mediterranean oregano. That is the one I have growing here. It spreads nicely but lately it has been dwindling. I have been neglecting it.
    I enjoy this piece,my friend. Thanks. 🙂

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    • Mine is dwindling, too, Felix. It really didn’t like my neglect this year, either. I have to do better. I’m thinking Mediterranean oregano would be pretty in a hanging basket. I like the little flower on it, too. Ever tried that?

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    • Hi, Stuff!
      😀

      Now you are talking about the main reason I grow herbs. I love the same thing. I will walk along and run my fingers through the taller plants, just to release the fragrance. And so many of them draw butterflies. That’s a big plus for me. I don’t remember seeing the Cuban oregano blooming, but both of the other types do, and the Mediterranean oregano’s flowers are very dainty and pretty. Butterflies seem to like them a lot. Works for me!
      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I love hearing from the readers.

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      • Marcia ~ I love herbs and this one is just so hardy and yummy! I love going to farmer’s market in the spring. There are so many herbs to try and the vendors encourage touching and testing.

        Have a great day! ♥ paula

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  3. Oh, I like Paula much better than “Stuff.” Nice to “meet” you!
    😀

    I agree, totally. I just need to get better about snipping and actually using my herbs. Part of the problem is I don’t really enjoy cooking, so I don’t even think of it when I’m trying to get something on the table in a hurry. (If I weren’t married, I’d probably eat peanut butter sandwiches every night). But now, if I had a wee bit more time, I could totally get into drying herbs and using them in sachets, potpourris or for therapeutic things. But again, this year, I swear I’m going to cook with them more. *musing, here* I wonder how well fresh oregano goes with beanie wienies???

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  4. I had no idea ! I thank you for posting this … I am now smarter than I was a few minutes ago! I just always bought “oregeno” at the garden store. I had no idea about the varieties.

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    • You are welcome, SC. It’s always nice to share something that’s new to someone. I think the only true oregano is the Mediterranean one, since the others aren’t even in the same family, as you can tell from the Latin names. But they are interesting and tasty plants in their own rights. And to make matters even more confusing, sometimes Mediterranean oregano is sold as Greek oregano, European oregano, and other common names. I know people (except me) tend to hate Latin names, but it’s really the only way to know what you are talking about, sometimes. I hope you can find some of the other “oreganos” this spring. You might enjoy growing something different, and they can be really pretty.

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  5. I have to say, my favourite herb is cilantro (or coriander). It is so fresh and beautiful. Another one to recently capture my attention is tarragon. Tarragon and chicken is a match made in … my kitchen! Love it.

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    • Hi, McGirl! Nice to see you at Granny’s today, too. I LOVE tarragon, especially on chicken. I’m right with you there. Not so much so on the cilantro, at least not to eat. It’s a lovely herb to grow, though, but it tastes like soap to me, so I don’t eat it. Mexican tarragon (which is really a tagetes/marigold) is nice to grow, as well, and has a bit of that anise flavor that real tarragon has. It is happier in Florida gardens than the real stuff, and has cute little yellow single flower that butterflies like.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

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  6. This was a fantastic read; I’m shocked! Not by you of course, just that it took me Thirty min’s
    to find your site in google. That’s way too long for a high-quality web site like this… way too long!

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed the read, Judson. Sorry it took you so long to find me on google. Can’t imagine why, since I have had lots of people from all over the world find me, and even had some of my pics appear in e-mag articles on various topics. So I’m “out there,” though I confess that I don’t work very hard at it. I just tag the posts the way that makes sense to me, and move on. I have my hands full with two other blogs and a book I’m writing, so I guess I haven’t been fretting about exposure that much. I’m always open to suggestions, though. Glad you stopped by today, and hope now that you have found me, you’ll check back often. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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    • Yeah, that’s why I say use it sparingly. It is quite strong-flavored. I grow it mostly because it’s very pretty and unusual looking. Thanks for stopping by and letting us know about your experience with it. Have a great day!

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    • Hello to you in Ecuador! Nice to see you here. I’m glad the post was helpful to you, and I hope you’ll stop back by when you can. I’m a bit behind on my posts here, having 2 other blogs and a Twitter account keeping me busy, as I try to market my novel, Wake-Robin Ridge. It has kind of taken over my life, but I hope to get some more garden posts up soon. If it ever stops raining, I’ll be working in my yard again while the weather is still cool, and I’ll be posting updates and pictures. Thanks for visiting!

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      • hey
        you are welcome! your novels look very interesting, and i look forward to learning more about you and your writing! my internet is very very slow, and it’s usually hard to get the linkes/comments or even view images… i’m in the city of guayaquil today, so i’m catching up just a tiny bit!

        i look forward to more time and more of your posts!!!

        z

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  7. Thank you, “Z!” I will be watching for you, and hope you are able to connect smoothly and often in the future. (I hate it when I can’t get online for any reason. I feel like my world has been cut in half when I’m without computer access.) Good luck with finding ways to connect and enjoy all the wonderful info and new friends “out there.” Have a great rest of the day/night!
    Marcia

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