“Oregano is the spice of life” Henry J Tillman
I have a new adoration and that is fresh oregano. It all started with a 4” pot of that herb. Sometimes just a small spark is all you need to start a wildfire! Now I literally have oregano everywhere but I don’t mind because it is like having a very good friend around. It is strong, resilient, always comes back and is there whenever I need it. Most importantly it is delicious to spend time with.
It seems I am not alone in my infatuation of oregano. In fact I have very high browed company here. The Greeks say the Goddess Aphrodite herself invented the herb to enjoy and decided it was so good that she would give to humans to make them happier. She knew what she was up to! It added flavor and health to all of their lives and for many generations since.
The word “oregano” in Greek means joy of the mountains. The Greek people adore the herb and have celebrated it for thousands of years. Couples wear wreaths of it during their wedding to assure joy in their marriage and it is also placed on graves to hope the dearly departed have happiness in the afterlife. (And something good to eat, I hope!)
Oregano was also used often medicinally in ancient Greece. It was created into salves to treat achy muscles and sores. They also knew that oregano oil is a super powered (probably by Aphrodite) antibiotic agent that we are just catching onto. It contains a compound called carvacrol that has been proven to help break down the outer cell membranes in bacteria so your immune system can swoop in and take ‘em out.
Oil of oregano also helps take action against viruses, fungi and parasites. It is very powerful so be careful with the stuff. We use it as a spray anytime we get a sore throat and it really helps. You can get the spray locally made by our very own herbalist, Vivi Tallman, at the farmer’s market, which opens on Friday. (Woot! Let’s hear it for the Farmer’s market!! Friday’s 5-8pm, in the Sotheby’s/Kamali parking lot)
Oregano tea, made simply by seeping a handful of fresh or a teaspoon of dried oregano in hot water for 5 minutes, has remarkable benefits. It has been shown to reduce LDLs (ya know, the bad cholesterol) combat motion sickness and soothe all symptoms related to a common cold. The tea can be a bit bitter so a spoon full of honey will make the medicine go down.
There are three different types of oregano, Greek or Mediterranean, Mexican and Cuban. The oregano that is grown in hotter climates is spicier than cold climate oreganos, like the Mediterranean. An interesting fact, all three of the above mentioned oreganos aren’t even related. True fact! The Mediterranean oregano is the “true” oregano and all the rest are oregano “types”. Marjoram is more closely related to true oregano than the others.
Most people in the US associate oregano with good old fashion Italian cooking probably because that is how it was introduce to us. America didn’t even know about oregano until after World War II when the vets started coming home with it to put on their pizza. But oregano is used by many cultures in cooking like Mexican, Spanish, Greek, Caribbean and Turkish. Now it is widely used in many kitchens everywhere when it marches down the garden path and demands an entrance.
Dried herbs are always stronger than fresh but dried oregano is even stronger than most. Anytime you use a fresh herb you will taste the difference, it has life to it. Fresh oregano is easy to use; you pick it, wash it and chop it. Done. I suggest planting your own inquisitive plant in a CONTAINED area that you don’t mind it taking over and get ready to play with the Goddess’ herb.
This is my new favorite marinade for salmon and chicken. It is SO delicious! I developed this recipe because 93% of soy beans are GMO and I needed a yummy marinade that didn’t contain soy sauce. This recipe is so summery and easy you can make it every night of the week and Aphrodite would approve. Kalí̱ sas órexi̱! (Bon Appetite in Greek)
- Juice of two lemons
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons of fresh minced oregano
- 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika (or sweet if you can’t find smoked)
- 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon of kosher or flaked salt
- 1.5-2 pound filet of fresh wild caught salmon
- Mix up all your marinade stuff in a bowl with a whisk or toss it in the blender and give it a whirl. Nestle your salmon filet in a bowl cover with the marinade and let sit for ½ hour. Meanwhile, lightly oil your grill and heat it up to medium-high.
- When you grill is nice and hot, cook the salmon, flesh side down, for 4-6 minutes, depending on how thick the filet is, then carefully flip and grill on the other side.
- Drizzle the left over marinade in the bowl over the fish and cook for 5 more minutes with the lid closed or till the salmon gets slightly opaque in the center.
- Don’t overcook! If anything, undercook and let rest for 5 minutes and it will be perfect. Serve with a fresh salad and rice with oregano leaves in them.