How To Grow, Harvest, And Cook With Marjoram
And How It Compares With Oregano
Marjoram Origanum majorana, is a tender, versatile perennial in the mint family. It is hardy to zones 7-9. You can grow marjoram in your house for the winter in a sunny window. Grow it because it is attractive in the garden and provides a delicate flavor to enhance food.
Do you know your hardiness zone? Here is how to find it quickly.
William Shakespeare, who grew up in a country town on the edge of the Forest Of Arden, was familiar with flowers and herbs and made many references using them. Here is his description of a beauty.
Chapter 12- How to See Shakespeare’s Home Town By Boat. If you have a yen to travel again and see Shakespear Country, here is a unique and entertaining way to do it!
"Indeed sir, she was the sweet marjoram of the salad, or rather the herb of grace." -All's Well That Ends Well,Act IV, Scene 5.
Marjoram Or Oregano?
Marjoram or Oregano, what’s better? That is subject to your taste and what you are cooking. Marjoram is sweet, floral, and a little woodsy. Oregano is similar but more pungent, slightly bitter. Sweet Marjoram-Origanum marjorana. is a herb sharing its Genus with Oregano but is a separate species. (Remember, a genus is general, a species is specific.) “Latin for Gardeners”
Oregano became popular in the US because of war! American GI’s came home from Italy with a taste for Pizza topped with Oregano. That speaks remarkably well for Oregano since the Italians were the enemy! This link will take you to an interesting NPR story about it. Soldiers also brought back the taste for Marjoram.
For more information on growing and cooking with herbs read this.
Here Is A Way To Remember The Difference- Marjoram & Oregano
Marjoram is not about war. It’s all about love! Ancient Greek myths have it that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, liked to grow it in her garden. The stories don’t tell us if she made any pizza. The Greeks and Romans also believed that if a bridal couple wore crowns of Marjoram at their wedding, it would ensure a happy marriage and that you should plant Marjoram on loved one’s graves so that they would have joy for eternity. So it should be easy to remember Marjoram is the easy-going one!
Check the label in the garden center, read the botanical name, and look for these features on the left. Then taste a leaf, the oregano should taste and smell much stronger, more pungent.
Varieties Of Marjoram
- Sweet Marjoram-Origanum majorana This is the herb we are focused on and the one you can expect to be used in recipes calling for Marjoram.
- Italian Marjoram-Origanum x majoricum Is a cross between Marjoram and Oregano. You should find it a little more bitter than Marjoram. This is a story about it from The University of California Master Gardener Program.
Where Did We Get Marjoram?
Marjoram is native to the Mediterranean region and Asia Minor. It is known to grow freely in Sicily, Greece, and Turkey, and has been in recorded use since ancient times, the Ancient Greeks have been significant users and used it in cases of poisonings.
Historic Medicinal Uses For Marjoram
Like most herbs, Marjoram has a long history in folk medicine. It has been used to aid digestion, as a tonic for nerve and heart issues.
What is science? Marjoram has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. It contains Carvacrol, with antioxidant and antifungal properties.
“Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against free radicals, which may play a role in heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.”Mayo Clinic.
How to Use Marjoram
Marjoram contains Vitamin A and C, as well as phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It aids in digestion, and people use the scent to help with insomnia. The milder flavor means you can use reasonable amounts of both the fresh or dried version. The plants are not cold hardy, but you can hang the plant to dry its foliage at the end of the growing season, and it will keep its potency for a year. Conversely, with Oregano, if you use too much, you will undoubtedly know it.
Remove the leaves from the stems. The stiff stems can be a choking hazard. This is true of Thyme also. Dried Marjoram has a stronger flavor, add it early in the cooking process and it will become a mellow flavor. Add fresh Marjoram later in the cooking process.
The Subtle Flavor Notes
There is a similarity of aroma and flavor but Marjoram is more delicate, sweet, and complex. Oregano has a spicy element that Marjoram does not. Use Marjoram when you are cooking something that will benefit from the subtlety of its flavor.
Food Cultures To Think Of When Using Marjoram.
When searching recipes this might help. You will most likely find Marjoram the preferred herb in the cuisines of Southern France and Northern Italy, and Oregano was more often chosen in Southern Italy.
Is There A Substitute For Marjoram?
Yes, you can substitute other herbs. You will enjoy the meal but the flavor will be different. Use Oregano at half the amount of Marjoram you will use. You can season with Sage, what you will not get is that sweet after taste but you will like your meal. Consider also, Thyme or Basil. Try a combination of herbs.
If You Find A Combination That Works-Make A Note!
When you do this, make a note where you save recipes. You may come up with something that reflects your tastes perfectly. You won’t want to lose the idea.
What makes Marjoram special is its subtle, and woodsy, sweetness.
Some Meal Ideas
- Use it in lighter meals such as fish lamb and poultry. Flavor potatoes, cabbage, and beans with it, it has digestive properties
- Add Marjoram to omelets, quiche, and other egg dishes
- Any citrus marinade for meat
- Homemade sausage or meatballs
- Cheese, egg, and tomato dishes mix it into cottage and cream cheese.
- For vegetables, use Marjoram chopped into melted butter and add it to spinach and broccoli.
- Use it with peas tomatoes and beans.
- Roast chicken, duck, ham, sausages, steak, turkey,
- Soups, try it in mushroom and split pea soups, tomato soups, and sauces.
- Use with seafood, light pasta, and tuna. Use it in clams and oyster dishes.
- Carrots, cucumber, green salads
Herbs de Provence
-There are some variations among recipes but Marjoram is usually involved. Try Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Savory, and Thyme. You may also see Fennel, Sage, Tarragon, and Lavender. Use the blend with roast chicken, roast lamb, grilled fish, or vegetables.
if you think you would like to try the subtle taste of Marjoram on pizza here is a BBC Food recipe for Alpine Pizza with Marjoram.
Our Go-To Roast Chicken
One day long ago, my husband who likes to cook, was driving home from work and listening to a cooking show on NPR. He rushed into the house, dug up some paper, and wrote down this simple recipe.
For a large roasting chicken, mix up equal amounts of Marjoram, Sage, and Thyme. Rub the chicken with this all over. Add slivers of garlic under the skin and roast. If you need to give someone dinner and you are short on time, this is an excellent idea. A bottle of wine, Rosemary Potato, a little salad from the garden… They will go home happy!
Sauteed Carrots From Food And Wine
This recipe for carrots with lemon, garlic, and marjoram is delightful, light, and easy.
Tuna Steaks With Herbs
This is a tasty option for Tuna
Marjoram With Pesto
This looks tasty and its from Epicurious.
How To Grow Marjoram
First, How To Identify The Difference
The two plants share similarities. They are both members of the mint family, they have erect stems with the same flat oval leaves and they both bloom on circular spikes.
To tell the difference notice the stem texture and the leaf appearance.
The Oregano leaf is oval, hairy, and coarse. Taste the leaf; Oregano is pungent with a little spice. Oregano gets its flavor profile from the aromatic compound, carvacrol.
Marjoram takes its flavor from three aromatic compounds. These are sabine, which makes it fresh and woody. Terpinene adds the citrus note, and Linalool makes it floral.
Oregano has pink or purple flowers, and common Marjoram has white or white/mauve blossoms. The Oregano plant becomes leggy unless pinched into a more compact shape, which you can easily do by using them in the kitchen.
Marjoram is a tight and bushy plant, this fact made it popular in Tudor knot gardens. The leaf of Marjoram is smaller and its color is softer and more gray/green. The flower buds look like little knots.
How To Plant Marjoram
Sow seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last spring frost using a seed starter kit. Seedlings will emerge in 14-21 days. You can direct-sow in full sun after any danger of frost has passed. Utilize compost in the soil. The plant is hardy to zone 5 in some cases and is grown as an annual in colder climates. This fact may suggest starting with small plants that mature faster and increase the usable season of the plant. Use loamy soil with a neutral pH. The Marjoram plant is 8-24″tall, and 12-18″ wide. Plant them to preserve airspace between plants. This is a good step in the prevention of disease.
Planted in the ground, Marjoram will grow as a sub-shrub, reaching 3′ in height with multi-branching stems. Marjoram is a compact, plant, and very suitable for container gardening. This article should help you select the best potting soil.
Marjoram-Annual or perennial
Marjoram is perennial in zones 9 and warmer. It will return next year. In zones 7-8 mulch the plant well. In colder climates, you can grow marjoram indoors in a sunny window or you can dry your entire plant for winter use.
Can I Grow Marjoram Indoors?
Yes, marjoram as a Mediterranean herb will perform well indoors with the caveat that it requires 6 or more hours of bright sun per day. A bright. south or southwest-facing window is ideal, otherwise, you may require a grow light. Provide a good quality potting mix and a wide pot as it is a trailing plant.
Maintenance And Care
Be aware of soil moisture and water the plant when the top inch of soil is dry. You can use a water-soluble plant fertilizer. Herbs should have light fertilizer as excessive fertilizer increases growth and negatively impacts flavor.
Pick fresh Marjoram as needed, pick when the flower bud appears, but before the flower develops. Do not reduce the plant by more than 1/3 of its mass. Cut the plant back as the blossoms appear, this will produce a superior flush of growth. If the flower is an annual in the zone where you garden, you can dry the entire plant for winter use.
Pests And Diseases Of Marjoram
Whitefly and spider mites are problems, they leave behind speckled and unappetizing leaves. If you see this use a spray bottle of soapy water or diluted horticultural oil.
The plant is resistant to diseases but fungal diseases can appear. Try to avoid wet soil and overhead watering.
Marjoram can provide your garden and your kitchen with years of fragrant and delicious beauty.
Companion Plants For Marjoram
Marjoram is a versatile member of the herb garden. This is because it can be planted anywhere, it gets along with everything. It is recommended as a companion for celery, corn, eggplant, onion, peas, potato, and radishes. Its favorite soil conditions are relatively dry, which is something to keep in mind. Basil for example, which appreciates moisture is not a near companion for that reason.
Appreciate Marjoram for its easygoing nature and its compatibility with so many foods. If you want to flavor your cooking on the subtle end of the taste, Marjoram with its delicate flavor will be your best companion.