< Back to Newsletters

Oregano

Oregano

The light is preternatural
on the high plateau
though the temples and the game of ball
in Xochicalco
and goats and geese feed on the grasses
among the fallen stones that grow.
There are many beautiful places.

The light is also magical
in Delphi in the mists that come and go
---she on the three-legged stool
sniffing gasses from below
might well have spoken with Apollo---
and sheep are grazing on Parnassus
thyme and oregano.
There are many beautiful places.

But the light is common day and still
in the North Country here and now
where in the graveyard up the hill
my sister lies and I too
will maybe lie---who can know?---
and there are other empty spaces.
Robins hop to and fro.
There are many beautiful places.

Creator of the world, thank you.
My eyes are weak and I wear glasses,
I can witness even so
there are many beautiful places.
Paul Goodman, BALLADE OF BEAUTIFUL PLACES

Etymology-(Number 1)
The Greek name or’ganon might well contain —ros "mountain", and the verb ganožsthai "delight in", because oregano prefers higher altitude in Mediterranean climate; yet a pre-Greek or Semitic origin of or’ganum has also been discussed. A similar motivation may lay behind Norwegian bergmynte "mountain mint" (oregano and mint belong to the same plant family). http://www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katzer/engl/generic_frame.html?Orig_vul.html
ETYMOLOGY:-(Number 2)
Spanish orŽgano, wild marjoram, from Latin organum, from Greek organon, probably of North African origin http://www.bartleby.com/61/32/O0113200.html
ETYMOLOGY:-(Number 3)
From America English "oreo" referring to the popular cookie with white frosting sandwiched between two chocolate biscuits, and "gano" a corrupted form of "gone" which is used by little children when their mother asks them what happened to all the oreo cookies that were in the cookie jar. They shrug their shoulders and say- Oreo gone-o. Very small children simply say Ore-gano as their vocubulary is more limited-
Etymological observations by Mr. Bear

Botanical Source.ÑOriganum vulgare, or Wild marjoram, is a perennial herb, with erect, leafy, hairy, purple, quadrangular, corymbose stems, from 6 inches to 2 feet in height. The leaves are opposite, petiolate, broad-ovate, obtuse, subserrate, hirsute, rounded at the base, green on both sides, sprinkled with resinous dots, and paler beneath; the petioles hairy, and one-fourth as long as the leaves. The flowers are numerous, purplish-white, in smooth, erect, roundish, panicled, and fasciculate spikes, accompanied with ovate, purplish bracts longer than the calyx. Calyx ovate-tubular, striated, with 5 nearly equal teeth, and hairy in the throat. Corolla funnel-shaped, about the length of the calyx, and slightly 2-lipped; upper lip suberect, flat, and emarginate, the lower trifid, with lobes nearly equal. Stamens 4, exserted, somewhat didynamous, with double anthers; stigma bifid and reflexed. Achenia dry and somewhat smooth (G.ÑW.ÑL.). http://www.ibiblio.org/herbmed/eclectic/kings/origanum.html
Origanum vulgare subspecies hirtum - Greek Oregano, Wild Oregano. This is a subspecies of the widespread wild oregano, and is found only in Greece, Turkey, and the islands of the Aegean Sea (it is sometimes incorrectly referred to as Origanum heracleoticum), and is the essential herb for pizza. Known as 'origini' in Greece, it is only summer flowering heads that are dried and used. The flowers are always white. The leaves are fuzzy, oval and somewhat coarse in relation to the other species. The flavor is strong, austerely and hotly aromatic, penetrating and slightly bitter. This is the strongest flavored 'oregano'. It is the species used for extraction of essential oils, the dried foliage having around 3% of oils, depending on growing conditions and seedling variability. The concentration of oils is so high that lengthy handling of large amounts of the dried product can cause irritation to sensitive skins.

Images of Oregano
http://www.dipbot.unict.it/orto/0674-1.html
great image of greek oregano
http://www.ecopharm.gr/R_c_or.html
images of commercial oregano cultivaton
http://www.ecopharm.gr/R_c_oil.html
good images of oregano distillaton
http://www.micropix.demon.co.uk/sem/plants/oils/ secretory trichome
Greek oregano

Ethnobotanical Uses
Edible Uses Condiment; Leaves.
Leaves - raw or cooked as a potherb[5, 52, 183]. Oregano is an important flavouring herb in Mediterranean cookery, and is often used dried rather than fresh[238]. This sub-species has a much stronger flavour than the type[238]. The leaves are used as a flavouring for salad dressings, vegetables and legumes, and are frequently included in strongly flavoured dishes with chilis, garlic, onions etc[2, 13, 21, 27, 183, 238]. A nutritional analysis is available[218]. Much of the commercially available dried oregano does not come from this plant but from a number of different, often unrelated plants[238]. These include Lippia graveolens, L. palmeri and Origanum syriacum[238]. A herb tea is made from the dried leaves and flowering stems[183, 207, 238].

Other Uses
Dye; Essential; Ground cover; Repellent.
An essential oil from the plant is used as a food flavouring, in soaps and perfumery[115, 171]. A red or purple dye is obtained from the flowering tops[4, 7, 13, 100], it is neither brilliant nor durable[115]. The plant repels ants[46]. A useful ground cover for sunny positions, forming a slowly spreading clump[197, K].
http://www.ibiblio.org/pfaf/cgi-bin/arr_html?Origanum+vulgare+hirtum

Greek Oregano/Origanum vulgare subspecies hirtum Essential Oil
Physical description-pale yellow mobile oil
Olfactory description-extremely powerful, penetrating punguent dry green herbaceous-medicinal odor top and heart notes. This is an oil that not only impacts ones nasal passages with a strong tingling sensation but seems to pass into the throat zone with similar effect. This is not an oil for the timid. It seems to clear out anything in its path leaving only its own powerful resonating vibration. Tenacious dryout preserving many of the characteristics of the top and heart notes with somewhat reduced intensity
Perfumery uses-"Trace amounts of origanum oil are useful for topnote effects in citrus colognes, fougeres, forest notes, chypres, lavender colognes, spicy -herbaceous after-shave fragrances and lotions,etc..."Stephen Arctander

GC Analysis Greek Oregano/Origanum vulgare subspecies hirtum or Origanum heracleoticum Essential Oil EcoCert Organic/France
a-thujene 0.63
Description: Colorless or almost colorless liquid with a menthol- like odor
a-pinene 0.65
Fresh Sweet Pine Earthy Woody
beta pinene 0.34
Sweet Fresh Pine Woody Hay Green
myrcene 2.16
Fresh Peppery Terpy Spicy Balsam Plastic
limonene 0.43
Lemon Citrus Citral Fresh Sweet gamma
terpinene 8.71
Oily Woody Terpy Lemon/lime Tropical Herbal
para cymene 8.75 Fresh Citrus
linalol 2.17
terpinene-4-ol 0.76
carvacrol 67.85
penetration, dry-medicinal herbaceious odour with a spicy undertone
beta-phellandrene 0.27

http://147.46.94.112/journal/sej/full/p0520_520415.pdf
superb detailed report on cultivars and chemotypes of the Origanum genus

"Excellent Herbs had our fathers of old-- Excellent herbs to ease their pain--
Alexanders and Marigold, Eyebright, Orris and Elecampane,
Basil, Rocket, Valerian, Rue, (Almost singing themselves they run)
Vervain Dittany, Call-me-to you-- Cowslip Melilot, Rose of the Sun.
Anything green that grew out of the mould Was an excellent herb to our fathers of old.
Wonderful tales had our fathers of old-- Wonderful tales of the herbs and the stars--
The Sun was Lord of the Marigold, Basil and Rocket belonged to Mars.
Pat as a sum in division it goes-- (Every plant had a star bespoke)--
Who but Venus should govern the Rose? Who but Jupiter own the Oak?
Simply and gravely the facts are told In the wonderful books of our fathers of old."

Kipling, from "Our Fathers of Old"