Oregano – Origanum vulgare and Sweet Marjoram – Origanum majorana are two different species with similar taste and appearance. They are both from the Mediterranean region. Oregano is a perennial here in the UK too and has a stronger flavour than marjoram which is grown as an annual. They both used on pizzas and in tomato based dishes. Oregano is mostly used in its dried form as the leaves are very small and have a strong flavour and has many different cultivars which are slightly vary in appearance. Oregano is often called wild marjoram and has pink or purple flowers which are also edible. To add to the confusion there is an other kind of marjoram Origanum onites – pot marjoram which is just like oregano. Sweet marjoram has a milder taste and larger leaves, better suited for fresh use and for growing inside in a pot.
The oregano seeds are very tiny and can be a job to handle the; mix with fine sand if you have any around for easier sowing. Sow the seeds on the surface of good quality compost and gently press them down with your hand. They don’t need covering. Germination can be as long as 25 days, especially on lower temperatures; for best results keep the seeds at 20 degrees Celsius and above. And water the pots or trays from the bottom using a saucer to make sure you don’t disturb the tiny seeds. Marjoram seeds are slightly bigger but you can use the same method as with the oregano. Best time is to sow is late April – June in pots or trays, because of the fine seeds I would not recommend sowing them direct outside.
Keep the seedlings in the pots and thin them out if necessary and plant them to their final position in your garden when they are at least 10 cm tall. Oregano grows well in a sunny location and on a not too rich soil.
Harvest the leaves just before flowering as this is the time when the plant contains the most essential oils and aromas. Both plants can be grown in pots inside. Don’t feed the plants only once or twice a year as they have more flavour if grown in a lean soil.