Greek Oregano has become well-known in recent years for its anti-viral, anti-oxidant, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. Oregano oil extract is widely available as a supplement and can often be found in pill or capsule form.
Packed with phenols known asthymol and carvacrol, this herb has been used to treat a variety of ailments since ancient Greek and Roman times, such as indigestion, toothache and coughs. Folklore said it had been created by the love goddess, Aphrodite, who grew it in her garden atop Mt. Olympus as a symbol of joy. It was commonly planted around homes to ward off evil spirits.
Greek Oregano is also one of the most familiar culinary herbs and is an essential ingredient of Mediterranean cooking.
Oregano’s fragrant flowers strongly attract pollinator and other beneficial insects, especially bees, butterflies and moths. It is a useful companion plant for most vegetables. It reaches about 2 feet tall and wide, with soft hairy leaves and flowers that bloom from midsummer to fall. It spreads naturally with underground runners and can even be used as a ground cover.
Greek Oregano is a very hardy, disease-resistant perennial. It is fairly tolerant of poor soils, strong winds and dry hot conditions. Plant it in a well-drained, full sun location for best results. Space plants at least a foot apart. Once they are established, allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. This herb is easy to grow in containers and there is no need to fertilize it once the plants are over 6 inches tall.
Greek Oregano grows wild on mountain slopes in Greece and Turkey. Sometimes referred to as “wild marjoram”, it is a different species in the same genus and has a stronger, spicier flavour. If buying it at a nursery, taste a leaf to see if it is the “real” Oregano. You could also ask a friend or neighbour to start you off with a few cuttings and it is easily started from seed.
The leaves have the best flavour before flowering; pinching back the buds will prolong harvest. Pick them in late morning after the dew has evaporated.
All in all, Greek Oregano is an awesome medicinal, culinary and companion plant.