Guide To Herbs Day 10: Oregano

We are continuing on with the Food Republic herb guide, where we are pulling together the basic facts about some of our favorite herbs to use: what they are, how to store them, and what to do with them. We kicked things off last week with a prelude, looked at parsley, basil, and rosemary, discussed why dill is more than a pickle, checked out cilantro, discovered what is up with herbes de Provence, mined the multitude of uses for chives, looked at sausage's best friend sage, and pondered tarragon. Today we are moving on to oregano.

Oregano is greatly influenced by its environment. Oregano grown in cooler northern climates tends to be more bitter. Italian or Sicilian oregano is known for its sweet and spicy notes and is thought to be a hybrid of true oregano and marjoram. Greek oregano is the most common, and interestingly, common oregano isn't actually oregano. It's marjoram, which has a milder, sweeter taste (and truthfully it's often the "oregano" in that wide-holed shaker at your pizza restaurant). Mexican oregano isn't technically oregano; while similar in taste it has a stronger bite and lingering bitterness.

The most common uses for fresh Oregano are in Greek dishes, especially on fish or in salads; in Turkish cuisine, where it's used to flavor meats. It's also prevalent in Latin meat preparations.

Oregano first became popular in the U.S. after WWII. Soldiers serving in Italy enjoyed oregano's peppery, slightly bitter flavor and started sprinkling it over their pizzas, eventually bringing this staple stateside.

When buying oregano, look for bright green leaves. It can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to a week.

We only have a few days left in our first herb guide. What herbs do you want to see next? Let us know in the comments.

Another day, another herb. Read all about 'em: