This flavorful herb is a staple ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, and while this is all good and well for pasta lovers, there is so much more to this humble plant. Did you know that are many different types of oregano, not just the common Italian Oregano? In fact, some types of oregano are slightly spicy and some types are not even meant to use for cooking.
I hope you enjoy learning new things about familiar things because there are a lot of interesting and obscure facts surrounding oregano that I want to share with you. So, let’s get on to broadening our knowledge of the herbal world.
The Different Types of Oregano
Oregano is divided into ten different types. Many of these will be familiar to you if you frequently eat or cook Italian or Greek food. Some may not be so familiar to you and some will surprise you with what they are and why they are grown.
Common Oregano (Origanum Vulgare)
This type of oregano features square stems, flowers that are either pink, purple, or white, and leaves that are highly aromatic, especially when crushed. Common oregano is frequently used in Mediterranean cuisine, and therefore, it is a very popular type.
Within this type of oregano are several varieties or cultivars. These include the following:
This variety of oregano also goes by its botanical name, Origanum vulgare, however, it features leaves that are oval-shaped and vibrant green. It does resemble Country Cream in that it produces small pink flowers in summer. It, too, is an excellent herb to use in cooking and it provides a slightly spicy kick to anything it is used as a seasoning on.
Country Cream Oregano
Also known by its botanical name, Origanum vulgare, this variety of Common Oregano features leaves that are aromatic and variegated in color, a bushy shape, and pink flowers in the summer. It is an excellent herb for seasoning meats and pasta sauces.
This is another variety of Common Oregano that features variegated leaves. It also produces pink flowers in the summer and is excellent for use as a seasoning in meat and pasta recipes.
Cuban Oregano (Plectranthus Amboinicus)
This is not a true oregano variety, it is actually a perennial succulent that has wonderful flavor and aroma. It features leaves that are light green, rippled along their edges, and shaped somewhere between round and oval. It also produces blossoms of light purple, pink, or white.
Cuban oregano is considered a great flavoring to use in pizza and pasta. It actually has a more intense flavor than true oregano, so it is best to slowly add the herb into dishes to prevent over-seasoning.
Greek Oregano (Origanum Vulgare ‘Hirtum Greek’)
Greek Oregano is sometimes referred to as Turkish or European oregano. It is actually a variety of Origanum vulgare or Common Oregano. Because it is known as the true oregano and it is the type you are most likely to have in your pantry, it is what all other oregano types are compared to.
The features of a Greek oregano plant are very similar to other types of oregano, e.g. green leaves that are oval-shaped, stiff stems, tiny flowers, but when it comes to flavor, that is where the difference between types is evident. Greek oregano has a strong herbal flavor and aroma that is easy to recognize in most Italian or Greek cuisine.
Golden Oregano (Origanum Vulgare ‘Aureum’)
This type of oregano features leaves that are golden-green in color and oval in shape. It is highly aromatic and produces lovely clusters of pinkish-white flowers in the fall and summer seasons. This is not a type of oregano that is typically used for cooking (but it can be if a mild oregano flavor is desired), it is much better to use it as a groundcover in a perennial garden.
Italian Oregano (Origanum Vulgare)
This type of oregano is actually a hybrid of Origanum vulgare and Origanum majorana. Italian oregano is a common ingredient in Italian cooking. The plant features purple blossoms and dark green oval-shaped leaves.
Mexican Bush Oregano (Poliomintha Longiflora)
Rather than being a true type of oregano, Mexican Bush Oregano is related to the mint family. Because of this, its flavor profile is similar to oregano, and consequently, it is called oregano and used in recipes that call for an oregano-like flavor.
Mexican Bush Oregano features oblong-shaped leaves that are long, thin, rippled on the edges, and vibrantly green. It also produces purple flowers that have a strong fragrance.
Mexican Oregano (Lippia Graveolens)
This is another plant that is not a true type of oregano but can be used in recipes calling for oregano. Its botanical name is Lippia graveolens and it is related to verbena plants. It features green leaves that are ridged and oval-shaped. It also produces clusters of tiny white flowers.
As a native of Central America, it is commonly used in Latin cuisine. Its flavor profile is stronger than its Mediterranean counterpart and is slightly citrusy.
This type of oregano is grown for its beautiful looks and lovely aromatic fragrance rather than its flavor profile. These are not toxic plants, but they simply do not provide a strong enough flavor to make cooking with them worthwhile.
Within this type of oregano are several varieties or cultivars. These include the following:
Amethyst Falls (Origanum Amethyst Falls)
This variety of ornamental oregano is a hybrid plant that grows in a bush-like formation with cascading bracts filled with tiny purple flowers.
Buckland (Origanum ‘Buckland’)
This variety of ornamental oregano features bluish-green leaves that are oval-shaped and long pink flowers. Buckland oregano is a very ostentatious-looking herbal plant. It is bushy, vibrantly colored, and fragrant.
Dittany of Crete (Origanum Dictamnus)
This variety of ornamental oregano features leaves that are bluish-green, oval-shaped, and fuzzy. It produces bracts in the summer that grow in as a pale-green color but eventually are tipped with a vibrant red-purple. After a time, small pink or purple flowers will grow from these bracts.
Dittany of Crete can be used in recipes calling for oregano but is extremely mild. It is much better when used for décor than for cooking.
Heiderose Oregano (Origanum Vulgare ‘Heiderose’)
This ornamental oregano is a variety of Origanum vulgare. It features tiny oval-shaped leaves and large stems that produce burgundy and pink flowers in the summer.
Hopflower Oregano (Origanum libanoticum)
This variety of ornamental oregano features dark green leaves that are oval-shaped. In the summer it produces cascades of bell-shaped flowers in shades of purple.
Kent Beauty (Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’)
This variety of ornamental oregano features delicate green leaves that are veined in silver color. It produces flowers that are pink and pale green and slightly translucent. While this stunningly beautiful plant is not suitable for cooking, it is quite well designed for use as a decorative garden feature.
Kirigami (Origanum ‘Kirigami’)
This variety of ornamental oregano features round leaves that are fragrant and colored either light green or purple-green. This is a tiny and compact plant that is lovely for growing in hanging baskets or in garden settings where its long stems can drape over rock ledges.
Pilgrim Oregano (Origanum Laevigatum)
This variety of ornamental oregano features small oval-shaped leaves and purple bracts that produce pink flowers in the summer.
Rosenkuppel (Origanum ‘Rosenkuppel’)
This variety of ornamental oregano features vibrantly colored blooms in summer and fall. The purple-pink blossoms are highly attractive as decorations and as sources of nectar to birds and butterflies.
Sweet Marjoram (Origanum Majorana)
This type of oregano is a native of Turkey. It features oval-shaped leaves that are green-gray in color. It also produces pink and white flowers in the summer.
Sweet Marjoram is good for use in some types of recipes. Because its flavor is so delicate, it is best to put in recipes that keep it raw rather than heated in some way. Heating it tends to minimize its flavor.
Syrian Oregano (Origanum Syriacum)
This type of oregano is sometimes referred to as Lebanese oregano. It features oval leaves that are soft and furry and it grows in a dense, bushy clump. It is very drought-tolerant and is ideal for growing in hot, arid places.
Syrian oregano is typically used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Its flavor is quite different from the types of oregano used in Italian cooking. It has more spice and mint flavor to it than its counterpart in Italy.
Within this type of oregano is one cultivar:
Cleopatra Oregano (Origanum Syriacum ‘Cleopatra’)
This type of oregano is spicy and minty. It grows well in hot, arid places and well-draining soil.
Answer: This depends on the type of oregano. Each type and sometimes varieties of each type require different climates for optimal growth. Here is a breakdown of which zone each type or variety can be grown in.
Zones 4 through 8
*This includes Compactum Oregano, Country Cream Oregano, and Variegata Oregano
Zones 9 to 11
Zones 5 through 11
Zones 4 through 9
Zones 5 through 10
Mexican Bush Oregano
Zones 7b through 11
Zones 7b to 8a
Zones 6 through 11
*This includes Amethyst Falls, Buckland, Dittany of Crete, Heiderose Oregano, Hopflower Oregano, Kent Beauty, Kirigami, and Rosenkuppel.
Zones 9 to 10
Zones 9 to 10
*This includes Cleopatra Oregano
Answer: Yes, just like many other types of herbs, oregano can be frozen for use at another time. If it is refrigerated, it should be stored with a damp paper towel in a plastic bag and used within a few days’ time.
Answer: Oregano is an excellent herb to dry for use later. The steps for this process are simple.
Tie sprigs of oregano together with string
Hang the sprigs in a place that is cool, dark, and has access to airflow
Store the dried sprigs in an airtight container that is kept away from sunlight
An alternative method for drying oregano is:
Pull off all the leaves from a sprig of oregano
Spread them on a baking sheet so that no leaf is covered by another
Set your oven for the lowest temperature possible
Put the baking sheet in the oven
Crack open the oven door
Turn off your oven and allow the leaves to dry (this should take about 15 minutes)
Store the dried leaves in an airtight container that is kept away from sunlight
Answer: Oregano plants require a lot of sunlight each day. They should be set in a spot where they receive full morning sunlight but have some shade during the hottest part of the day.
Answer: Oregano plants require soil that is loose and well-draining and a pH range of 6.5 to 7.0.
Answer: Oregano plants should be watered when the top three inches of their soil dries out.
Answer: Oregano plants should be fertilized a few times during their growing season to help them grow strong and healthy. A small dose of all-purpose fertilizer or organic compost is an excellent choice for feeding these plants.
Answer: Yes, they can be propagated via cuttings and division. The steps for both methods are simple.
Prepare a container or a garden bed for planting a new oregano plant
Gently remove an oregano plant from its container or its garden bed
Use a sterile cutting utensil to divide the plant’s root system into two or more plants
Replant the divisions as soon as possible
Water the newly divided plants
Keep the newly divided plants shaded during the hottest parts of the day as they recover
Note: This method of propagation is best done on an overcast day in early spring or fall
How to Propagate Oregano from Cuttings
Use a sterile cutting utensil to cut a 3 to 5-inch stem from a plant (be sure the stem has leaves and nodes on it)
Remove the lower leaves from the bottom two-thirds of the stem (be sure there are at least two leaves left on top)
Set the cutting in a clear container filled with water
Place the container in a warm and sunny area
Transplant the cutting to the soil once a root system has developed
Treat the plant as a mature plant once it is in the soil
Note: This method of propagation is best done in spring or early summer
Oregano is one of those herbs that everyone should keep in stock. You never know when a recipe is going to call for a pinch of it. Fortunately, it is such an easy plant to grow indoors and outdoors and store for future use. There really is nothing more wonderful than a plant that makes cooking delicious and gardening easy.