I’m sometimes asked what herbs are best for novice gardeners. When answering I always include oregano in the short list of starter herbs. It’s easy to grow, hard to kill (trust me), and tastes great when added to many foods.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a hardy perennial that forms a dense mat about 1-2 feet high. In early summer it is crowned with stalks of tiny white flowers that honeybees adore. I like to pair it in my garden with roses or other woody perennials. The oregano bed will shade the roots of its neighbors all year long and help them survive dry spells and hard freezes.
There are several varieties of edible oregano on the market. The classic Italian oregano grows about 18-20 inches high and has narrow medium green leaves with a rather pointed tip. ‘Greek’ oregano has more heart-shaped leaves and tends to grower lower than Italian oregano. A recent introduction is ’Cleopatra’ oregano, which has silvery-green heart shaped leaves similar to ‘Greek’ oregano but with a more spicy flavor.
Whichever variety you grow, fresh cut oregano is a versatile herb in the kitchen. Nearly any tomato-based sauce benefits from its flavor. It’s the perfect accompaniment to green beans and many other vegetables. I also like to include a little in the pot when I’m cooking brown rice. So plant some oregano this spring for delightful flavor all year long.