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Italian Oregano

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Origanum vulgare or Oregano, is a member of the mint family. It is a perennial herb, growing up to 30 inches tall. The flowers are purple, approximately ½ inch long and are produced in erect spikes.

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Oregano is an important culinary herb and is widely used in Turkish, Greek, Spanish and in Italian cuisine. It is the leaves that are used in cooking, and in contrast to most other herbs, dried Oregano is often more flavorful than the fresh. It is used in tomato sauces, fried vegetables, and grilled meat. It also combines nicely with pickled olives and capers, and works with hot and spicy food. Oregano has an aromatic flavor and it varies in intensity. A good quality Oregano is so strong that it almost numbs the tongue.
Oregano and Pizza: The dish most commonly associated with Oregano is pizza. Its variations have probably been eaten in Southern Italy for centuries. Oregano became popular in the United States when returning WWII soldiers brought back with them a taste for the “pizza herb.”
Health benefits: Oregano is high in antioxidants, due to a high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids. It has also demonstrated antimicrobial activity against some food-borne pathogens. Both of these characteristics may be useful in both health and food preservation. In the Philippines, Oregano is not commonly used for cooking but is rather considered as a primarily medicinal plant, useful for relieving children's coughs.
The leaves and flowering stems are strongly antiseptic, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, expectorant, stimulant, and mildly tonic. Extracts, capsules, or oil of Oregano are taken by mouth for the treatment of colds, influenza, mild fevers, fungal infections, indigestion, stomach upsets, enteric parasites, and painful menstruation. Caution: It is strongly sedative and should not be taken in large doses, though mild teas have a soothing effect and aid restful sleep. Used topically, Oregano is one of the best antiseptics because of its high thymol content. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used Oregano as an antiseptic as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. Modern research has shown Oregano to have extremely effective properties against methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), showing a higher effectiveness than 18 currently used drugs.
Growing and Cultivation: Most Oregano is hardy from zone 5 to 9. It needs full sun for the most flavorful leaves, but can tolerate some afternoon shade. They need a well-drained, average garden soil and will benefit from occasional applications of compost or compost tea. As with most herbs, oregano leaves taste best before the plant flowers. You can begin harvesting when plants have reached 4-5 inches in height. Cutting stems all the way back to the ground will encourage more stems and a fuller plant. The stems tend to get woody and the easiest way to strip the leaves is to hold the stem by the top, uncut end and run your finger down the stem.