By Mike on Sunday, August 7, 2011, 21:44 - Permalink
August 2011 - I went for a sunny, breezy walk atop the chalk downland of Old Winchester Hill. Wild Marjoram is abundant in this habitat - and it's a useful kitchen herb, so I picked some to take home for drying.
What is Wild Marjoram
Origanum vulgare - a clump-forming, upright-growing herbaceous perennial, typically growing to knee height in exposed, sunny places, but may reach easily twice as tall in damp, shady spots.
The leaves are small and ovate - giving off a strong herbal scent when crushed or rubbed - with a sharp, resinous smell reminscent of citrus and pine.
But it's the flowers you'll probably notice first - usually pale purplish pink - although white and dark maroon varieties may also occasionally be found - individually tiny, but borne in massive profusion, making the plant very popular with bees and butterflies.
The tiny, individual flowers are tubular, opening a few at a time from tightly-clustered panicles at the tips of the stem.
They have the typical shape of a plant in this botanical family (Labiatae or Lamiacae) - 5 petals fused into a tubular throat, splaying out to give a mouth-like appearance.
In The Kitchen
There are several related species that are variously called Marjoram or Oregano - they're all good for adding aroma to Mediterranean-style dishes such as pizza, sauces for pasta and herb breads.
Marjoram combines well with other related herbs such as thyme and rosemary.
I've got Marjoram in my garden, so I only picked a single stem of the wild plant to demonstrate the process of drying it, which is really simple.
This works for almost any herb - just pick some and find a way to hang it upside down - either by tying it in bunches with string, or hanging it by the forks of its own branches over a horizontal string or rail. Leave it in an airy, shady place (not in direct sunlight).
After a few days, it will dry and become crisp - the leaves and flowers can then be crumbled over a sheet of folded paper and tipped into an airtight jar for storage.