What is marjoram?
A sprinkling of marjoram leaves and shavings of parmesan added to an omelette before folding creates a delicious herby, cheesy burst of flavour that combines so well with eggs. Fresh and dried marjoram is also used to flavour salad dressings, soups, marinades and vegetable dishes.
Marjoram is native to Cyprus and southern Turkey. To the ancient Greeks, marjoram was a symbol of peace, harmony and happiness. They used this herb to make wreaths and garlands. The ancient Egyptians grew marjoram to use in food and as a medicine.
Nowadays, marjoram is a popular herb and grown extensively in Mediterranean countries and southern Europe. In Italy, Greece and France, hillsides are covered with fragrant marjoram. In France, marjoram is an ingredient in Herbes de Provence, a dried blend of herbs used to flavour grilled meat, fish and vegetable stews.
In Australia, the most common variety available is sweet marjoram. This herb has small, oval, green leaves that are attached to a woody stalk. The leaves are very fragrant and change to a grey-green colour as the herb ages.
Marjoram is often confused with oregano, but oregano has larger leaves. The flavour of marjoram is also sweeter and more delicate than that of oregano. Marjoram has tiny white flowers that grow at the tip of the stalk whereas oregano has purple flowers.
The leaves and flowers of marjoram can be used fresh (strip off the leaves from the stalks) or dried (hang bunches upside down until completely dried) in recipes.
Why marjoram is good to eat
- Marjoram contains vitamins A (important for growth and development and the maintenance of your immune system) and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
- It also contains minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure), manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function) and magnesium (involved in the regulation of muscle, heart and nerve function and keeping bones strong).
- Marjoram contains dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of dried marjoram supplies 1134 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Marjoram plants grow best in a sunny position and require regular watering. Seeds germinate between seven and 14 days after planting and eventually form a small shrub that reaches about 75 cm. The marjoram plant has stalks with small, oval-shaped, green leaves and white flowers.
Marjoram leaves can be harvested around eight to 10 weeks after planting the seeds. The leaves are at their best just after the flower buds form but before they flower. As they get older, marjoram plants become woody. To stop this from happening, snip back the old, woody stalks to allow the plant to produce new stalks and leaves.
Choose fresh marjoram that has grey-green leaves. Avoid marjoram with yellow and discoloured leaves.
How to store and keep marjoram
Store fresh marjoram wrapped in a paper towel and in a plastic bag in the crisper section of your fridge. It will keep for up to a week if stored this way.
Store dried marjoram in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. It will keep for up to six months if stored this way.
How to use
- Make a creamy marjoram sauce – fry mushrooms, sliced shallots and chopped fresh marjoram, then add chicken stock, reduced fat cream and seasoning and pour over grilled chicken.
- Cook a pork roast – rub and coat roasting pork with a mixture of chopped fresh marjoram, chopped fresh thyme, crushed garlic, olive oil and rice vinegar, then roast, drizzle with pan juices and serve with roasted vegetables.
- Try roasted sweet potatoes – sprinkle wedges of sweet potato with chopped fresh marjoram, fresh parsley, minced garlic and seasoning, then roast and serve with gratings of parmesan cheese.
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Better Health Channel
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