Marjoram – Beloved on Mount Olympus and in My Kitchen
Marjoram has always been a favorite of the Gods on Mount Olympus. It's also one of our favorite to grow in the Natufia Kitchen Garden with remarkable results and a scent that can only be matched by some wild seaside hills in Southern Italy.
In Greek mythology, Marjoram was Aphrodite’s favorite flower, and it is believed that the goddess herself used this plant in her most secretive scent that would charm her opponents and lovers.
If you just look at marjoram, you only see a modest plant with small green leaves like any other…but if you just brush the leaves a bit with your fingers you will discover its characteristic pleasant aroma that spreads on your fingers and in the room around you. It works like a spell!
The two heroes of the large mint (Lamiaceae) family
Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is a member of the powerful mint family (Lamiaceae). This family has a immense number of ornamental plants. They are particularly noted as aromatic and flavorful ingredients in cuisines worldwide. Herbs that belong to this family are basil, thyme, oregano, lemon balm, sage, mint, etc.
In the genus Origanum, we can find two heroes, marjoram and oregano (Origanum vulgare) which are beloved in cuisines all over the world. In some Middle Eastern countries, marjoram is synonymous with oregano, and the name sweet marjoram and knotted marjoram are used to distinguish them. Oregano is called wild marjoram or pot marjoram, although this last name is also used for other cultivated species of Origanum.
The difference between the two heroes
The difference in taste between the two herbs is, thankfully, something which is easier and clearer to define. Oregano is the strongest tasting of the two with a definite spicy taste. Individual flavors and aromas of oregano include cloves, peppermint, and pine. The flowers have a very similar taste and are totally edible.
Oregano is typically used to flavor food which already has strong flavors. Pizza, pasta and tomato sauces are probably the most famous recipes in which oregano plays an important role but it is widely used in many other Italian, Greek and Mexican dishes including chilies.
Joy of the mountains
Marjoram’s origin is from Western Asia and Eastern Mediterranean, mainly in Turkey and Cyprus. This popular garden plant has a very long history as a culinary and medicinal herb. The Greeks called marjoram ‘joy of the mountain’ and used it to make garlands for weddings as a symbol of love and honor. In ancient Egypt, marjoram was used in healing, disinfecting, and preserving. This plant has been long used to prevent milk from souring.
Strongly aromatic herb
The aromatic character of the marjoram comes from its high level of volatile oil, which also account for the rich flavor prized in cooking and medicinal properties. The Pleasant sweet spicy scent and slightly bitter, aromatic minty-citrus flavor make marjoram good choice for culinary experiments.
Unique taste and power to heal
Marjoram’s fresh taste is excellent to enhance the taste of salad dressings, seafood sauces, and poultry. Marjoram leaves are best used fresh, as their flavor is sweeter and more mild. For this reason, it is best to add them at the last moment when you use them for cooking. Marjoram goes well with green leafy vegetables and also with beans, cabbages, and tomatoes. Marjoram is mainly used as a culinary herb but is rich in flavonoids and essential oil, notably carvacrol and thymol—which have medicinal applications.
It was once believed that marjoram helped to nurture love. This herb was added to food to promote civility and love. Women carried this herb around in bags and it was placed around homes for the sweet fragrance. It was also used in “love spells.” A young woman would place marjoram under her pillow at night believing that the herb would help reveal her future husband while she was dreaming.
Yesterday, I made some delicious food with marjoram. At first, I made some very delicious and small candies called 'Turkish delight' with marjoram blossoms and light crunchy crackers with marjoram butter. And finally, I made a potpourri with marjoram leaves, rose petals and lavender flowers. It was splendid. I am excited to go back home tonight after work and enter the kitchen which I know by now is filled with the delicate and sophisticated scent of my potpourri that will give me all evening and again in the next days to come the spiritual transportation away from the dark winter evenings and into a mix of seashore and rolling Mediterranean hills.
Written by Helery Harend, MSc
In the Natufia Kitchen Garden
Organic "Demeter" Marjoram is available for purchase on Natufia's webshop. It takes approximately 3 to 4 weeks for the Marjoram to come to maturity and another 2 weeks for harvesting. Just harvest what you need, as it will continue to grow and flourish in your Natufia Kitchen Garden.
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