Marjoram (origanum marjorana) seems shrouded in many riddles to the general public. It is part of the mint family and is widely considered a parallel of thyme. Botanists consider it a parallel of oregano but chefs believe that there is a very wide difference between marjoram and oregano.
There is also sweet marjoram (origanum hortensis) and wild marjoram which is commonly called oregano (origanum Vulgare). It is not a native to North America; however, it is native to North Africa, Turkey, and southwest Asia.
Marjoram is best planted in alkaline soil (around 7.0-8.0 pH) and with full sun or partial shade; under optimal conditions, it will reach a height up to two feet. This height makes it an ideal candidate for a container. Seeds can be put directly into the ground after the last threat of frost, or you can plant already sprouted seedlings, and place them six inches apart.
Try to keep the plants warm and as moist as possible. The leaves are available to use as soon as they are large enough. Drying the leaves will produce a stronger scent and spice flavor. Plant this near coriander to keep the marjoram-loving aphids away.
Marjoram as a plant will have a grayish green hue to the leaves, and white or pink blooms. It has soft fuzzy leaves with baby fine hairs. To propagate this, the roots may be divided in the fall. It is a perennial and will come back every season.
Seasoning-wise, marjoram has a milder flavor than oregano and it is good for vegetables, meats, eggs, and cheese. It is mostly used as a meat seasoning. However, for a truly spectacular Thanksgiving, use dried marjoram in your turkey stuffing. Everyone will know you’ve done something, but not be able to really put their finger on what. Due to its light flowery scent, marjoram is also a great additive to most soaps, dried herb wreaths, scented pillows, or potpourri.
In early times, if marjoram was growing near a gravesite it was assumed that the buried party was enjoying a good afterlife. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was said to have made sweet marjoram to be a gentle symbol of happiness. Egyptians used it to please the gods during embalming procedures and Hippocrates used it in medicinal treatises as well.
As an essential oil, marjoram is used as an antiseptic, tonic, antioxidant, analgesic, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, and a nervine. It will dilate the blood vessels and is used widely for asthma, coughs, colds, flu, mouth ulcers, aches, PMS, congestion, seasickness, and lower anxiety.
The oil was used in Greece to be an antidote for poison, but today is used to calm, de-stress, massage oil, and as a compress for bruises. Many herb shops and holistic centers will keep a supply of marjoram essential oil on hand, check with your local herbologist if you’d like to learn more.
All in all marjoram enjoys quite a seasoned reputation and a very flavorful future.