Oregano (pronounced UK: /ɒrɨˈɡɑːnoʊ/,
US: /əˈrɛɡənoʊ/), also Origanum
vulgare) is a species of Origanum of the mint family that is native to
Europe, the Mediterranean
region and southern and central Asia. It
is a perennial herb, growing from 20–80 cm tall, with opposite
leaves 1–4 cm long. The flowers are purple, 3–4 mm long, produced in erect
Oregano is the anglicized form of the Italian word origano, or possibly of the medieval Latin organum; this latter is used in at least one Old English work. Both were drawn from Classical Latin term origanum, which probably referred specifically to sweet marjoram, and was itself a derivation from the Greek origanon ὀρίγανον, which simply referred to "an acrid herb". The etymology of the Greek term is often given as oros ὄρος "mountain" + the verb ganousthai γανοῦσθαι "delight in", but the Oxford English Dictionary notes that it is quite likely a loanword from an unknown North African language
Oregano is an important culinary herb. It is particularly widely used in Turkish, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, Latin American, and Italian cuisine. It is the leaves that are used in cooking, and the dried herb is often more flavourful than the fresh. Oregano is often used in tomato sauces, fried vegetables, and grilled meat. Together with basil, it contributes much to the distinctive character of many Italian dishes.
It is commonly used by local chefs in southern Philippines when boiling carabao or cow meat to eliminate the odor of the meat, and to add a nice, spicy flavor. Oregano combines nicely with pickled olives, capers, and lovage leaves. Unlike most Italian herbs, oregano works with hot and spicy food, which is popular in southern Italy.
Oregano is an indispensable ingredient in Greek cuisine. Oregano adds flavor to Greek salad and is usually added to the lemon-olive oil sauce that accompanies many fish or meat barbecues and some casseroles. In Turkish Cuisine, oregano is mostly used for flavoring meat, especially for mutton and lamb. In barbecue and kebab restaurants, it can be usually found on table, together with paprika, salt and pepper.
It has an aromatic, warm and slightly bitter taste. It varies in intensity; good quality oregano is so strong that it almost numbs the tongue, but the cultivars adapted to colder climates have often unsatisfactory flavor. The influence of climate, season and soil on the composition of the essential oil is greater than the difference between the various species.
The related species Origanum onites (Greece, Turkey) and O. heracleoticum (Italy, Balkan peninsula, West Asia) have similar flavors. A closely related plant is marjoram from Turkey, which, however, differs significantly in taste, because phenolic compounds are missing in its essential oil. Some breeds show a flavor intermediate between oregano and marjoram.
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