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Nutritional Properties of Oregano and Marjoram

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

July 8, 2019

Oregano and marjoram are two herbs from the genus Origanum commonly used in Greek, Italian, and Mexican cuisines as well as in traditional Chinese medicine. According to historians, oregano has been used since 7th century B.C. to flavor meat, vegetables, fish, and wine. Today, they are also used extensively in tomato-based sauces including pizza sauce, dressings, stews, and any garlic-flavored dish. Although some species in the genus are not suitable for human consumption, the plants are known for being ornamental and fragrant.

The Origanum flavonoids and phenolic compounds vary depending on the oregano species, but for the most part they have cytotoxic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. For example, lab studies have shown that galangin and quercetin reduce mutation. Oregano’s particular scent and flavor are mainly due to a phenol called carvacrol, which also has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Oregano also has thymol, which is found in thyme and produces a thyme-like aroma. Both thymol and carvacrol inhibit the growth of bacteria and may aid food preservation. Marjoram on the other hand has sabinene hydrate which provides the herb its sweet flavor.

Popular Varieties

  • Profusion oregano:  Very hardy, with an intense flavor
  • Greek oregano:  True oregano, excellent flavor, hardy
  • Mexican oregano:  Good oregano flavor, used for chili and Mexican dishes

Interesting Facts

  • According to some studies, using small amounts of oregano can stimulate the appetite, but consuming large amounts has exactly the opposite effect, reducing food consumption.
  • Excessive use of oregano and marjoram is not recommended during pregnancy because they may stimulate uterine bleeding and cause spontaneous abortion due to a mucous membrane irritant effect.
  • Due to its properties that can help to loosen phlegm in the lungs, oregano is commonly used in cough syrups, cough drops, and topical cough and cold products such as VapoRub®.

Fun Facts

  • In Europe, marjoram was used to polish furniture and floors.
  • In Greek, oregano means “joy of the mountains.”
  • Ancient Greeks believed that cows that grazed on fields of oregano produced tastier meat.
  • Shakespeare included marjoram in “The Winter’s Tale” and “All’s Well that End’s Well”: “Indeed, sir, she was the sweet-marjoram of the salad, or, rather the herb of grace.”
  • The ancient Greeks believed oregano was a creation by Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, from her mountain-top garden on Mount Olympus. It symbolized happiness and joy for everyone throughout the land.

Other Uses

For home remedies to settle the stomach or soothe a cough, use 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb per cup of boiling water. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Then, sip it like tea.

How to Store

Place the fresh oregano or marjoram in a slightly damp paper towel in a bag with some air in the refrigerator for up to one week.

How to Dry

  • Option 1: Tie herbs and hang – leafy ends down – so that the essential oils in the stems will flow into the leaves. Place each bunch inside a paper bag before hanging to prevent dust and hang them in a warm, dry place – not over the stove to prevent cooking your leaves.
  • Option 2: Place whole, intact stems in an open oven that has been heated to 150-200°F and then turned off. Leaving the door open prevents the leaves from cooking.
  • Option 3: Dried on screens, trays, in drying baskets or hung in bunches from the ceiling in a warm, dry area. Every few days, stir or turn the leaves gently to assure even drying.

The recipe of the week comes via Food Network (https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/katie-lee/greek-souvlaki-cheat-sheet-3864326)

Greek Souvlaki Cheat Sheet

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oilNt
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 pitas, cut in half

Directions

  1. Put a baking sheet in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, onion powder, oregano and garlic powder; season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken, tomatoes and onion and toss to coat.
  3. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and evenly spread the chicken mixture on it.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, then add the pita around the edge of the baking sheet and bake until the chicken is cooked through, another 5 minutes. (If desired, you can also broil the mixture for a couple of minutes more for more color).
  5. Serve with the Tzatziki Dip.

Tzatiki Dip:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped peeled and seeded cucumber
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh mint
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced

Directions

Combine the yogurt, cucumber, vinegar, mint, salt and garlic in a small bowl. Refrigerate until serving.

 

All my best!

 

Karen Alexander, MS, RDN, LD/N

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