Grow Oregano Indoors: The Mediterranean Herb In Your Garden
The stripped oregano on an oven-fresh pizza completes the Italian classic. We present everything you need to grow oregano indoors. Oregano ( Origanum vulgare ) belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae). Many other famous herbs such as thyme ( Thymus vulgaris ) and Sage ( Salvia officinalis ) are related to it. It is often referred to as a dost – but this is misleading.
Dost is namely the common name of the entire genus Origanum. The oregano is a perennial, herbaceous plant that can reach a height of between 20 and 70 cm. The oregano grows more or less upright. It forms a rhizome whose underground rhizomes push shoot buds to the surface of the earth. These filigree buds are the wintering organs of the Mediterranean herb. Its winter hardiness is relatively limited due to its origin in the milder Mediterranean regions.
On the other hand, the pizza herb is relatively easy to care for when it comes to watering. And oregano can boast not only with its Mediterranean flavor but also with its healing powers. We will introduce you to the representative of Mediterranean herbs and show you how they can also grow in your garden.
Oregano: cultivation in your own garden
So that your own cultivation of oregano is crowned with success, you should choose the location in your own garden with care. The perennial herb, which originally comes from the Mediterranean region, prefers a sunny and warm location. In addition, the soil should have permeable properties, for example in the form of a certain proportion of sand, and not be too rich in nutrients.
Heavy clay or loam soils can be loosened by incorporating sand or humus and prepared for the cultivation of oregano. The requirements apply to both growing in beds and growing in pots. Since the oregano forms a pronounced rootstock with runners, the container for growing in a pot should not be too small. A special herbal substrate is ideal for the bucket.
There are three ways to propagate oregano. If you are already the proud owner of an oregano plant or if there is one in the vicinity, you can separate fresh, young shoots from an existing plant and propagate them using cuttings. The best time to do this is in spring from mid-May. Likewise, the entire plant including the root ball can be divided and separated into several plants. This should be done a few weeks before the propagation of the cuttings.
Of course, you can also buy oregano plants. The specimens from the vegetable department also have a good chance of survival in their own garden. However, they must slowly be adapted to the external conditions in the garden, because in the greenhouses of the herb nurseries they are protected from direct sunlight and cool night temperatures.
However, oregano seeds are also commercially available. It can take 20 to 25 days for the first seedlings to appear at an average of 15 ° C. In the open field, pre-cultivation on the windowsill can begin from the end of April and mid-February. Since oregano is one of the light germs, it is best not to cover the seeds with soil to protect them from drying out. This can be remedied by placing a pane of glass over it. As long as it doesn’t get too hot under the glass, it can be left over the sowing disc until the first cotyledons appear.
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Watering and fertilizing
The oregano’s evolutionary adaptation to the dry Mediterranean climate has not passed by either. He can get by with very little water and does not resent long dry spells. Waterlogging should even be avoided – due to the high risk of infection with root fungi, this can even lead to the death of the oregano. While the bed rarely has to be watered during extreme and prolonged periods of drought, oregano in the pot may require daily watering depending on the size of the container if it is very warm and sunny.
For a sufficient supply of nutrients, it is sufficient to work a primarily organic long-term fertilizer into the soil in spring. When cultivating in pots, organic liquid fertilizer can be used every four to six weeks overwatering. However, this should not be done more often, otherwise, the shoots will be long and unstable and the aroma intensity will be lost.
If the oregano shoots become too long and leafy over the years, a more radical pruning in early spring before the new shoots can be recommended. During the cut, only about 10 cm of shoot length is left standing above the surface of the earth. This also promotes the branching of the plant.
Depending on the type or variety, oregano is hardy. However, the hardest boiled specimens only defy temperatures down to around -15 ° C. Additional winter protection for the plants in the bed in brushwood or mulch is therefore advisable. Oregano pots can simply be placed in the warm for the cold season.
Oregano: characteristics of its subspecies
The genus Origanum, to which the mint family described belongs, also contains similar relatives of the popular pizza herb. It is confused again and again with the annual and much milder marjoram ( Origanum majorana ). Origanum vulgare has established itself as a spice for global cultivation for a reason: almost without exception, it has clear advantages over its close relatives in terms of frost resistance.
Furthermore, oregano ( Origanum vulgare ) is divided into six subspecies depending on its specific geographical occurrence. The best known and most popular subspecies is the Greek oregano ( Origanum vulgare subsp. Hirtum ). It stands out from the mostly pink to purple blooming other oregano representatives with a white bloom. In addition, most successful despite the cold winters and is therefore particularly suitable for growing in beds.
Harvest and store oregano
There are two ways of harvesting oregano throughout the summer. If the individual leaves are plucked in very small work, this promotes the abundant and rapid branching of the plant. But even if entire shoots are cut 10 to 15 cm above the ground, the fast-growing plant sprouts quickly. A more radical crop pruning is possible at any time in the frost-free phase. However, if done too late, it can potentially taste the ornamental oregano blossom. The optimal time for harvest is just before flowering. Then the content of the aromatic essential oils is highest and the taste and smell are therefore the most intense. Furthermore, care should be taken to harvest in the morning hours and not when it is raining to intensify the aroma.
Of course, oregano can be used fresh from the harvest – but it doesn’t have to. The following options exist to extend the shelf life of oregano without serious loss of flavor:
- Drying: The harvested shoots are hung upside down and can be air-dried without any loss of aroma. After the drying process has been completed, the leaves are peeled from the stems and stored under the exclusion of air. So the spice can be used very well for more than a year.
- Freezing: The freshly harvested oregano leaves can be frozen and removed as required.
- Pickling: Whole shoots or individual leaves can also be pickled in olive oil. The oil absorbs the essential oils of oregano and is ideal for cooking, marinating, or preparing a salad dressing. The plant parts should be completely enclosed by the oil to counteract the formation of mold through contact with air.
Oregano: Use of the Mediterranean herb
Oregano is ideal for cooking and is probably known to everyone from the preparation of classic dishes from Italian cuisine. Sauces, salad dressings, and marinades can be perfectly refined with the tangy, spicy herb. It can create a Mediterranean mood both fresh and dried. It is just as suitable for meat dishes as it is for preparing ice cream specialties. An all-rounder, however, who knows how to garnish hearty dough specialties like no other. No pizza should be without stripped oregano and other Italian classics such as the salty Schiacciata or Ciabatta with tomato-mozzarella know how to refine oregano.
But with all the skill in the kitchen, the healing power should not be forgotten. Because of its ingredients, oregano has some positive effects on the human organism. In the Middle Ages, it was already administered to induce childbirth and, as a smoking plant, was supposed to keep evil away. Today we know that it has a relaxing effect on the stomach and intestinal problems when taken as a tea. It can also help with bacterial respiratory infections. When processed into oregano oil, the herb can be anti-inflammatory and generally helpful against blemished skin.