Oregano

100_3863 cropOregano is marjoram’s wild cousin, and as such, is pungent and weedy. It seeds in all over the garden, and thrives even in the dry, rocky former driveway-turned-flowerbed. It is the first plant ready for harvest and storage each spring, and some years I miss it because I’m so busy planting everything else.

A woody perennial, oregano is available fresh almost all year in our mild climate, but the classic oregano flavour we all love on pizza comes only from the dried herb.

In winter, I cut the plants back nearly to the ground; the scraggly stems that have already flowered would survive and sprout new growth in the spring, but oregano needs an annual “haircut” to look good.

Early in spring, the trimmed plants send up a beautiful green cushion of new foliage. This fresh, even growth is easy to harvest and dry, and the plants will reward me with another crop when the first is shorn.

But for me, the best thing about oregano is its flowers. They aren’t particularly showy or pretty, but they attract a huge array of insects—bees, butterflies, hover flies—and those in turn attract preying mantids and spiders. When the oregano is flowering, I often take my lunch into the herb garden, just to watch the insects.

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