Syrian Oregano is a giant among
oreganos. Not only does it get tall when it blooms (about 4 feet), but it is
also big on flavor. Similar in taste to the popular
Greek Oregano, Syrian Oregano is a
much more accommodating plant in the garden. While it is tall when in
bloom, it does not creep and sprawl over the garden like Greek Oregano. In
the picture to the left, the new spring growth has shot forth from the
ground and grows rapidly. This early growth is quite attractive with soft,
bright green leaves and reddish stems. The leaves can be harvested at this
stage and right on up until the bloom has been on the branch for a while. As
the leaves age, they will become a dark, dusty green and the stems will
become a woody brown. These older leaves are not quite as good for fresh use but can be
dried and powdered.
The new flower buds (pictured top left) can
also be used fresh or dried. Their flavor is very concentrated and is the
perfect flourish for a grilled cheese sandwich or a bowl of creamy tomato
soup. Once the flower buds have elongated (picture top right) though it is
best to pass them by. At this point, usually in early fall, the bush can be
cut back to the ground to rest for the winter. Or, the flowers can be
left on until brown so that beneficial wasps and other beneficial insects
can feast on them. This does not hurt the plant and, as the flowers become
totally brown, the insects no longer find them attractive. At this point the
stems can also be cut back to the ground for winter.
The plant below was not cut back in winter and has already started to emerge
in spring. It would have been much tidier had it been cut back to about an
inch with a hedge trimmer.
SYRIAN OREGANO (Origanum maru):
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than
snow.” Psalms 51:7.
Because common Hyssop (Hyssopus
officinalis) is not native to the Mediterranean area, much debate has
ensued over which plant was referred to in the Bible as Hyssop. It may
have even been several different plants used for different and varied
Origanum syriacum is thought to be the true Hyssop of the Bible.
A very frost tender plant, true O. syriacum is not offered for sale in
this country, so we settle for a subspecies of it, O. maru--or what we
refer to in the garden as Syrian Oregano. Oregano was often
gathered in bunches and used as a brush or sprinkler for purification
rituals. It was surely enjoyed then, as it is today, for its excellent
the Middle East, Origanum maru is often used, along with
Conehead Thyme and Pink Savory, as
an ingredient in the spice blend Zatar. While it is tempting to label a single
herb Zatar and while, like the recipe below, a single herb may be mixed with
other ingredients, Zatar is an herb and spice blend. The herbs in the mix vary
from region to region, similar to curry. Zatar is often spread on bread
or pita with a little olive oil and baked something like an herbal pizza.
In Carol Saville's excellent book Exotic Herbs,
she gives this simple recipe for Zatar:
1/2 cup dried Syrian Oregano
1/4 cup imported edible ground sumac
(make sure to get the edible kind from a Middle Eastern market)
2 tablespoons roasted Sesame Seeds
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Black Pepper to taste
2/3 Cup Olive oil
In a small bowl add the first five ingredients and stir
together to combine. Seal in a glass jar and store out of the light. Makes
about 2/3 cup.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Brush pita with olive oil and sprinkle with Zatar and
warm in the oven. Or mix equal parts Zatar and Olive Oil and spread over bread and then
Since Syrian Oregano is one of our most
flavorful oreganos, we developed a special recipe for it and the delightfully tasty
Italian Oregano Thyme:
Maru and Italian Oregano Thyme Honeyed Pork Chops.
Yet another reason to grow Syrian Oregano
is for its long, vibrant green flower stems. These are perfect for use in
making fresh herbal wreaths or
arrangements. Wreaths take a lot of stems and having a plant that produces
in abundance is a definite advantage.
Syrian Oregano would make a great addition to our Gourmet Herb
Garden Six Pack.
This plant is sometimes available in plug
trays. These trays hold 128 of all the same plant. They are a
great low cost way to fill a lot of space. Each cell is 3/4 of inch by
an inch. Check here to see if
Oregano Plug Trays are available.