Herb Seasoning: Oregano

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Low, bushy parennial of the mint family, oregano is native to the Mediterranean (and we have plenty of it here in Crete!) and western Asia. It is sold fresh and dried as cuttings of flower tops and leaves packaged in disposable containers or as dried, ground leaves packaged in sprinkle-pour bottles.

Not all oreganos are equal. Most herb lovers agree that Greek oregano is the most flavorful. Experts believe that the flavor of oregano depends on the relative concentration of the phenols carvacrol and thymol in the volatile oil of the plants. Carvacol is primarily responsible for the typical oregano flavor. They insist that the carvacol level is generally highest in Greek and some Mexican oreganos.

oregano-tibbygirlOregano was first used by the Greeks. In Greek mythology the goddess Aphrodite created aromatic oregano as a symbol of joy and grew it in her garden on Mount Olympus - later giving it to man to make his life happier. The word "oregano" is actually derived from the Greek phrase, "joy of the mountains". Just married couples were crowned with wreaths of it. It was also put on graves to give peace to departed spirits.

Ancient Greek physicians discovered that the herb had beneficial effects and prescribed it for a variety of ailments. Hippocrates used it as well as its close cousin, marjoram as an antiseptic. The Roman's, who later conquered Greece, would adopt much of the culture of the region. They tasted and enjoyed oregano just as much as the Greeks.

Today, oregano is the must-have for every Greek household, as very few days go by without some Oregano leaves sprinkled in the kitchen.

oreganoIn Greek cooking, oregano is used in tomato sauces, with meats, fish, cheese, egg dishes, salads, cheeses, and with vegetables including tomatoes, zucchini, and green beans. It is also used to prepare a tea that is believed to be a treatment for indigestion, coughs, and to stimulate menstruation. It has also become an essential ingredient in much Italian cooking, especially pasta, sauces, pizza and roasted vegetables.

In Mexico it is a key flavouring for bean dishes, burritos, taco fillings and salsas. Through Spain and Latin America it is used for meat stews and roasts, soups and baked vegetables. In Greece oregano is very easy to find and not at all expensive. All you have to do is give it a try!!