Oregano is a classic Italian perennial herb full of pungency and fragrance – its flavour has even been described as ‘violent’. Violent or not, it goes well with tomatoes, aubergine, cheese, beans. zucchini, fish, shellfish and meat – most famously it is used in the EU protected pizza Napolitano recipe. It can be used fresh but is most often dried.
Companions Tomato, capsicum, basil.
Quantity 1 plant per household
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Plant in spring.
Oregano does best in a sunny spot but as long as soil drains well it will cope with partial shade – it just might have a milder flavour. Oregano grows up to about knee height.
Oregano grows best on poor soils - where its fragrance is intensified. It is a great herb for growing in pots along with other herbs and along the edges of flower or vegetable beds as decoration. If planting in a container, add some fine pumice or coarse sand to your planting compost. In general oregano likes a free-draining soil without too much organic material in it.
Oregano can be unreliable when grown from seed. Seeing as it can withstand some frost and survive year round countrywide it is perhaps best planted as a seedling or a cutting countrywide..
Plant shop-bought seedlings with an average spacing of a good hand’s length between them.
Water young seedlings in dry periods. Once they are established and starting to grow you shouldn’t need to continue with watering unless weather is persistently dry and your soil dries out. Mulch to retain soil moisture.
Oregano grows quickly once the full warmth of summer settles in. Keep picking to stimulate fresh, bushy growth. Best time to harvest for dry herbs is when plants start to flower (this is when flavour is said to be at its best). Cut stems to within a thumb’s length above ground and tie stems into a bundle. Hang bundles upside down in a paper bag to dry. When you need oregano for a recipe all you need do is grab your bundle and rub or crush the stems until sufficient dried leaves have crumbled into your dish. Oregano can also be frozen in plastic bags and crumbled or defrosted and chopped.
If you are in a frost-prone area, cut stems down to about a thumb’s length in late autumn and protect with a layer of mulch. Remove this layer of mulch in the following spring as plants begin to grow again. In both cool and warm areas it pays to cut the stems on all plants back to about a thumb’s length above ground in spring to stimulate fresh new growth.