Food and Garden Dailies started as a way to record my family's favorite recipes. It has come in handy many times when I'm asked for a recipe. I simply email a link to the blog! But I couldn't just stick to recipes. The kitchen is tied to the garden in so many ways...and so I let you into my ever changing garden as well.

If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Marjoram or Oregano?

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Marjoram and Oregano

As my herb garden has grown, I've had a harder time identifying the plants. Some, like Sage "Berggarten", Chives, or Lemon Balm are quite easy to ID. I can even tell the difference between the "Grosso" and "Silver Edge" lavenders.

I have the hardest time with oregano and marjoram. It's no wonder since they come from the same family (origanum) and look (and smell!) a lot alike. Now that they're in bloom though, I thought I might have some luck in figuring out which is which. Google is great. I googled "marjoram or oregano" and came across this nifty article which did all the homework for me. It's a nicely written piece that goes indepth about these herbs.

In the end I learned that most oregano flowers are pinkish-purple, while they're white on marjoram. I quickly ran out to the garden, and sure enough...I can tell a difference!! Apparently the leaves have differences too, but I couldn't see them with my lay-gardener's eye. When I felt the leaves, I could tell a difference. The marjoram leaf feels smoother, kind of waxier. The oregano, while not fuzzy, was definitely coarser.


Other herbs shown: Sage "Berggarten" and "Silver Edge" Lavender


Lisa said...

Thanks for posting this! You know I have the same problem. Mine aren't quite blooming yet, but they will be in the next couple of days.

dg said...

Yes, and once they bloom you can mark which is which!

Lisa said...

Okay. Here's a problem. I have some Greek oregano that I bought this year that is planted all by itself with a label and the flower is white, not pink! What the heck!

dg said...

I guess that's where the "most" comes into play! Thankfully you have that one labeled. Mine were all labeled originally, but the plants grew so large or the tags disappeared/faded. I now know that on the left side is oregano and the right side is marjoram (looking at it from my patio door). (I wrote that last part in so if I ever forget which is which I can come back to this post!!)

hou said...

but the plants grew so large or the tags disappeared/faded.
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Unknown said...

I started looking at this, oregano v marjoram, because of what I thought was wild oregano growing by the roadsides where I live on the south shore of Galway Bay in Ireland. It turns out that this plant is wild marjoram with the scientific name of Oreganum vulgare. I thought it was oregano because of its scent and it is actually is oregano or at least an oregano. Any the summer has passed now and it has died back out of sight but next year I'm going to cut some and dry it and see how it works in the kitchen. I wont cut that much because it is wild and more important to insects and bees than it is to me. You can see banks of its pink flowers along the road from Kinvara to Ballyvaughan from August to the end of summer and I miss it already! Yvonne

Raederle Phoenix said...

Thanks for this help. The color of the blooms isn't definitive. And, oregano and marjoram cross very easily when grown together, which means you may end up with some new half-marjoram variety any year. I've read that the calyx is the only definitive way to tell, which is that little swelling just below the petals of a flower; the petals appear in many cases to be growing from it. In some cases, as is often the case with oregano, the calyx is well developed and looks more interesting than the petals themselves.

Also, the original label when you buy the plant may not be correct. Just because it was labelled when you bought it doesn't mean they knew for sure either.

If you want to be sure for culinary reasons, sample all your different oregano plants in your kitchen side-by-side with dried versions from the grocery store. See if you can learn to detect the flavor of marjarom well enough that you recognize it in the fresh version. That is probably the most useful way. Even if you never do discover what sorts of oregano you have by name, you'll at least find out what sorts of flavors you have growing which will help you decide how to use them.

~ Raederle