Marjoram (Origanum majorana)

Source: MARJORAM - Patricia G. Solley, 1997 (To go there: )

This perennial laviate herb, commonly known as "sweet marjoram" and a native of Africa, is the source of many fabulous stories. For example, it was told that Venus raised the first plant. Probably unrelated, it is also told that wild marjoram was originally a boy in the service of King Cinyras of Cyprus. One fateful, he was carrying a vase of perfumes...and dropped it. In his terror, he lost consciousness and ultimately was metamorphosed into this fragrant herb. Indeed, the name Origanum literally means "Joy of the Mountain". The ancient Greeks believed that if marjoram grew on a tomb, the dead person was happy. At the same time, marjoram was one of the strewing herbs, and it was always put into sweet sachets to keep linens and clothing sweet smelling. Related to the mint family, it is sweeter and more delicate than its relatives oregano and pot marjoram (Origanum onites). The plant tops produce origanum oil, which was once used as a medicine but now is used for perfuming soaps.

MARJORAM - extracted from the pages of Gernot Katzer -

Origin - Marjoram stems from Asia Minor. Since it is a popular spice, it is cultivated not only in Mediterranean countries, but also in Central and Eastern Europe, although best qualities require a fairly hot climate.

Similar to tarragon (botanically not related), marjoram is a spice which on one hand needs a warm climate to develop its specific aroma, but on the other hand loses some fragrance when dried. Despite these deficiencies, is is a well-established culinary herb in Central Europe.

Dried marjoram is extremely important in industrial food processing and is much used, together with thyme, in spice mixtures for the production of sausages; in Germany, where a great variety of sausages is produced, it is thus called Wurstkraut "sausage herb". Furthermore, application of marjoram to boiled or fried liver is somewhat classical. Marjoram may be effectively combined with bay leaves; furthermore, it goes well with small amounts of black pepper or juniper. Combinations of the last type are well suited to ragouts, particularly venison.

Yet marjoram also has its place in vegetable dishes; it is mostly recommended for rather heavy vegetables like legumes or cabbage. Fried potatoes spiced with liberal amounts of marjoram are delicious.

Fresh marjoram, on the other side, is more popular in South European cooking styles. Because of its lesser fragrance in cold climate, its usage in other regions may end in serious disappointment. Fresh marjoram may add new accents to the French fines herbes (see chives) and is frequently suggested for delicate fish dishes; it should be added shortly before serving. Only in less subtly flavoured dishes (like Italian tomato sauces spiced with garlic), fresh marjoram may be substituted by fresh oregano. Although this usage is not mentioned in cookbooks, fresh marjoram is well suited for the French bouquet garni (see parsley).

Dried marjoram is not a usual component of spice mixtures; yet it makes a good alternative for thyme in both the Southern French herbes de Provençe (see lavender) and the Jordan mixture zahtar (see sumac).

MARJORAM - extracted from the pages of One Planet -

Also called SWEET MARJORAM (species Majorana hortensis), perennial herb of the mint family (Lamiaceae, or Labiatae) or its fresh or dried leaves and flowering tops, used to flavour many foods. Its taste is warm, aromatic, slightly sharp, and bitterish. Aromatic qualities led to its historical use as a stewing herb. It has mild antiseptic properties and is added to herb bath mixtures. The leaves and flowers are used fresh or dried in cooking many foods, including beef, veal, lamb, poultry, fish, green vegetables, carrots, cauliflower, eggs, mushrooms, and tomatoes. It flavors stews, marinades, sautes, dressing, vinegars, butter, and oils. The plant can be grown in containers. Dried marjoram can be added to herb wreaths, especially culinary wreaths. It also is used to make olive green dye. It is said to have some medicinal qualities. Native to the Mediterranean region and western Asia, marjoram is also cultivated as an annual in northerly climates where winter temperatures kill the plant. Marjoram contains about 2 percent essential oil, the principal components of which are terpinene and terpineol.

Marjoram was well known in the Greco-Roman era. The ancient Greeks believed that if marjoram grew on a grave, the deceased would enjoy eternal peace and happiness. It was used as a medicine by Hippocrates. In the Middle Ages, it was said to be a stimulant, nerve tonic, and cure for asthma, coughs, indigestion, rheumatism, toothaches, and heart conditions. In ancient Egypt, marjoram was used in healing, disinfecting, and preserving. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was said to treasure this herb. The Greeks called this plant 'joy of the mountain' and used it to make wreaths and garlands for weddings and funerals. During the Middle Ages, European ladies used marjoram in nosegays.

Marjoram is a member of the mint family and has a taste similar to oregano. The marjoram plant is a low, bushy perennial that grows 12 to 18 inches high. The majority of the crop is sourced in the Nile Valley of Egypt. Marjoram has a distinctly aromatic green and pleasant woody flavor, with a slightly bitter undertone. Various other aromatic herbs or undershrubs of the genera Origanum and Majorana of the Lamiaceae family are called marjoram. Pot marjoram, Majorana onites, is also cultivated for its aromatic leaves and is used to flavour food. Wild marjoram, Origanum vulgare, is a perennial herb native to Europe and Asia and is commonly found in dry copses and on hedgebanks in England and has been naturalized in the United States.

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