Oregano

Health Power

Contains the potent volatile oils thymol and carvacrol, known to have antibacterial action stronger than some prescriptions. Thymol and rosmarinic acid are effective antioxidants, helping to eliminate cell-damaging free radicals. Oregano is also a great source of some minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin K. This often-overlooked vitamin may help promote heart health by helping to keep calcium from forming plaque in arteries. It also promotes bone health and blood clotting.

Vitamin and Mineral Content

Vitamins – K, A and C
Minerals – Manganese, Iron and Calcium

Disease Prevention

The high fiber in oregano makes it a good way to reduce cholesterol, defend against colon cancer and promote healthy digestion by absorbing good nutrients and eliminating toxins. Also, omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that also help create the healthier HDL form of cholesterol. It may help prevent high blood pressure associated with heart disease. Oregano’s essential oil helps prevent many bacterial, viral and fungal infections. It also helps digestion and calms the nerves.

How to Grow

Many species of oregano, some not suitable for cooking. Watch out for O. vulgare, which has a purple flower. It is tasteless and sometimes mistakenly sold for cooking. The most aromatic and common one for cooking is O. heracleoticum or, confusingly, O. vulgare subsp. hirtum. These produce white flowers rising a foot above the leaves. Oregano is a perennial that grows best with full sunlight in well-drained soil. The low-cost way is to start from seed or get healthy labeled transplants from a good local nursery. After the last frost, loosen the soil up with garden spade. If the soil is shallow or needs some amending to help drainage, create a raised bed by mixing in some fine gravel, grit or sand. Plant the transplants outdoors 14-18 inches apart. If starting from seed, plant these 6 inches apart about 1/2 inch deep. If planting more than one row, space them out 18 inches. When seeds sprout up, thin out the plants to one foot apart. Keep the soil moist for the first couple months. After that, it tolerates dry weather and only needs water when soil dries out. As the plant grows, trim back straying stems and pinch off flower buds to encourage optimal growth and desired shape. When the plant reaches 5-6 inches tall and/or has more than a dozen leaves, harvest as needed for cooking. When the season ends, cut the plants all the way down and mulch around them before winter to insulate roots from freezing temperatures. If you have too many leaves to use, dry them in a cool, dark place, chop up and store in an airtight container.

Insect Control

Oregano deters some common garden pests and can be planted methodically to help protect other plants. Since we eat the leaves, if pests become a problem, avoid using chemical pesticides or sprays. Although unlikely, sometimes aphids or thirps will attack. If the problem is not serious, let the pests do a little damage rather than introduce chemicals. If needed, try an organic treatment such as insecticidal soap.

Tips

Avoid using fertilizer to promote stronger flavor in the leaves. Oregano seeds can be sown in containers and transplanted 12 inches apart after the last frost or just left to grow spaced out in containers. When harvesting, cut the leaves off in the morning just after dew recedes. They have the most flavor and aroma before the sun causes oils to move into the shoots. Replace the plant after 2-4 years when it starts to become woody. Eat fresh oregano as much as possible to get all the beneficial oils. Oregano is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

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