How to Grow Oregano

How to Grow Oregano

Oregano’s most prominent modern use is as the staple herb of Italian-American cuisine. Its popularity in the US began when soldiers returning from World War II brought back with them a taste for the “pizza herb”, which had been eaten in southern Italy for centuries. There, it is most frequently used with roasted, fried or grilled vegetables, meat and fish. Unlike most Italian herbs, oregano combines well with spicy foods, which are popular in southern Italy. It is less commonly used in the north of the country, as marjoram generally is preferred.

Oregano is the anglicised form of the Italian word origano, or possibly of the medieval Latin organum; this latter is used in at least one Old English work. Both were drawn from the Classical Latin term origanum, which probably referred specifically tosweet marjoram, and was itself a derivation from the Greek ὀρίγανον (origanon), which simply referred to “an acrid herb”. The etymology of the Greek term is often given as oros ὄρος “mountain” + the verb ganousthai γανοῦσθαι“delight in”, but the Oxford English Dictionary notes it is quite likely a loanword from an unknown North African language.

In the myths of folk medicine, Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic, as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. A Cretan oregano (O. dictamnus) is still used today in Greece as a palliative for sore throat.

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