Wild Marjoram

marjoramthumb.jpgAugust 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.

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What is Wild Marjoram

marjoram2.jpgOriganum 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.

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marjoram4.jpgThe 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.

Drying Marjoram

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.

marjoram5.jpgThis 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).

marjoram6.jpgAfter 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.

 

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