Oregano or Origanum is said to be the conjunction or two Greek words oros meaning " mountain" and ganos emaning "joy". Together Oregano literally means joy of the mountain.
Oregano is a Mediterranean herb, growing from that area to Central Asia. 'Greek Oregano', Origanum heracleoticum is another variety of Oregano.
Marjoram or Oregano ???
Marjoram and Oregano are often confused with each other. This is compounded even by experts, nurseries and shops that sell culinary herbs.
At the bottom of this seemingly unending confusion is the fact that Oregano is the larger group of plants to which marjoram also belongs. Thus all marjoram is oregano but not all oregano plants are marjoram. Both these plants belong to the same family or genus, origanum.
The history of botanical classification is in part to blame for this tangle. Marjoram originally had its own family or genus which has now been amalgamated with that of oregano ie origanum. The latest classification deems that oregano is the genus and marjoram, or sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) is only one of over fifty kinds of oregano listed under origanum.
Common or household names do their little bit to confuse the issue! Pot marjoram (Origanum onites) is another variety and there is another type that is called Cretan oregano because it originated in Crete.
Plants that have no relationship with either marjoram or oregano are also called so. A Puerto Rican coleus (Coleus anboinicus) is sometimes sold as oregano. This is used in a traditional Cuban seasoning in combination with bay leaf and celery. Spanish Thymus nummularius, and Mexican Lippia graveolens are sold and used in place of oregano. And Origanum vulgare, or common oregano is also called wild marjoram!
Both Marjoram and Oregano belong to the mint family. They are similar in appearance. Marjoram is more compact, has soft grey green, oval leaves which smaller than oregano leaves. Oregano leaves are more coarse. The flowers differ in that, oregano flowers are pinkish-purple while marjoram flowers are white.
The flavour of Oregano is inseparable from Greek and Italian cooking. It is one of the few herbs that works extremely well, dried. Both fresh and dried oregano are used.
In Italian food, Oregano is most often used to flavour tomato sauce and tomato based dishes. It may also be added to vegetables and meat dishes. It combines well with basil, capers, garlic, olives and Lovage, the other distinctive flavours of Italian cuisine.
In Greek food, oregano adds flavour to Greek salad. It combines well with garlic and lemon and is an excellent addition to yoghurt. It marries well with aubergines, and the lemon and olive oil sauces that are often served with fish and meat. Oregano also lends a robust flavour to Greek and Italian stews.
In spite of the fact that the herb has been used for centuries in Italian food, its great international popularity stems from its use in Pizza, a food that is eaten all over the world.
Oregano is an excellent anti-bacterial agent since it contains thymol and carvacrol. Both of these are antibacterial. Mexican research has found that oregano is more effective against the amoeba Giardia lamblia (which causes the parasitic infection of the gut, Giardia) than the prescription drug tinidazol. 
Cranberry and oregano make seafood safe to eat 07 October 2005 From New Scientist Print Edition.
Oregano and cranberries together provide an extremely effective antibacterial agent that could cut the risk of food poisoning from infected seafood. according to Kalidas Shetty's team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. They believe that this mixture can kill Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacteria that lives in seafood that causes bacterial infections in humans. From issue 2520 of New Scientist magazine, 07 October 2005, page 21
Oregano is also an effective antioxidant, an excellent source of dietary fibre. and are largely non-allergenic.
Oregano is easy to grow and may be cultivated in containers, window boxes or in the garden.
The herb can be grown from seed in the full sun and in well-drained soil. Since Oregano is native to arid regions it withstands drought well and needs to be watered only once in two weeks or so. It prefers warm to cold and wet weather.
Less watering and fertilizing will produce a herb of a more intense flavour.
As a companion herb it enhances the flavour or neighbouring herbs like beans and is an insect repellent for other plants as well.
- Larousse Gastronomique
- The Book of Ingredients: Philip Dowell and Adrian Bailey; Penguin/ Mermaid Books 1993
- The Complete Book of Herbs; A practical guide to growing and using herbs: Lesley Bremness: Dorling Kindersley 1988
- About Greek Oregano
- Oregano Growing Tips and Advice
- How to Grow Oregano Herb Plants