The name oregano is derived from the Greek oros meaning 'mountain' and ganos meaning 'joy.' The plant grows wild in the mountains of Greece and is commonly called wild marjoram. The Greeks used it as a poultice for wounds, and Pliny recommended it for scorpion and spider bites. The colonists brought it to America, where it escaped into the wild.
Oregano's creeping rootstock produces square, hairy, erect, purplish stems. The purple to white flowers are 1/4 inch long, two-lipped, tubular, and in terminal spikelets. The leaves are opposite, ovate, and up to 2 inches long. The fruit is comprised of four seedlike nutlets.
Cosmetic, culinary, decorative, and medicinal.
Oregano is used in bath oils and sachets to help relieve aches and stiff joints. Fresh or dried leaves flavor tomato sauce, vinegar, butter, omelets, quiche, bread, marinated vegetables, beef, poultry, game, onions, black beans, and zucchini. Dried flowers are used in decorative arrangements and for fragrance in potpourris. Fresh sprigs are used to make wreaths. Oregano also is used to make red dye. It has attractive flowers and can be grown in containers. It is said to have some medicinal qualities.
With its low compact growth, oregano makes a good border plant. Once in bloom, our plants produced flowers throughout the growing season. We kept the plants pinched back to encourage bushier growth. Oregano is closely related to marjoram, but it has a coarser texture and a stronger flavor.