There are countless herbs and, some of them might look very similar to be confused. Indeed, it is not the first time that I am hearing people use the names marjoram and oregano interchangeably. While marjoram and oregano can occasionally be substituted in seasonings, they have diverse properties.
Hence, how do marjoram and oregano differ? Marjoram and oregano differ:
1. Appearance: marjoram is tall with oval leaves. Oregano is bushy with wide leaves.
2. Taste: marjoram is sweet, and piney. Oregano is sharp and spicy.
3. Food pairing: Marjoram works in deserts. Oregano suits Italian dishes.
4. Nutrition content: oregano has more nutritional value than marjoram.
Keep reading to find out more about the differences between these two herbs and how to use them. You will be able to teach everyone at your local market and nursery!
Marjoram and oregano are closely related. As outlined by the University of California they both come from the Origanum genus, which is a group of herbs in the mint family. However, they are different plants with variations in appearance, taste, food matching, and nutrition.
Many claim the difference between oregano and marjoram is dependent on the number of leaves per stem, the hairiness of the leaves, etc… However, you know what, there are dozens of oregano types. Moreover, oregano and marjoram belong to the same “family”. This means that they can interbreed making to find the differences almost impossible.
The only major difference between the two is given by the little green tongues below the flower of the plant. The oregano flowers have longer green tongues below them (also called calyx).
Marjoram is a tender perennial shrub, with stems that stand upright. Left to grow fully outside, it can reach around 80cm (32 inches) high and 45cm (18 inches) wide. Oregano is also a perennial with upright stems but is a woody herb. Depending on the species, oregano can get slightly little shorter than marjoram (60cm or 24 inches) but up to the same width (45 cm or 18 inches).
Marjoram leaves are thin and spear shape and tend to be grayish or whitish-green in color. They are also slightly hairier than oregano ones. Many species of oregano leaves are slightly wider and rounder.
Marjoram and oregano flowers are quite similar. They can be white or pink. Both herbs develop flowers on a long stem. They both grow in clusters and have flowers at the top. The bud from which the flowers come is often of a dark purple. In this case, able to differentiate them is quite hard. I would look at the leaves to be honest.
Taste I would say is the main trait the differentiate the two herbs.
Marjoram is the sweetest and the mildest of the herbs in the Origanum family. When I eat it, its taste reminds me of honey, but with also taints of floral, citrus, and a touch of clove. Marjoram has a balanced and warm taste and has flavors that are reminiscent of comforting and homey meals.
In contrast, oregano tends to be more bitter, spicy, and has a strong taste. It is sometimes described as having a sharp or pungent flavor. While there are some tones of clove to oregano, it has more mint, pine, and clove tastes. The taste of oregano is so distinct, some experts have stated that it is best to think of oregano as a flavor, rather than a species of herb.
Marjoram and oregano are the herbs at the heart of Mediterranean cuisine, and staples in Italian, Greek, and French cooking. These two popular herbs are not only interchangeable, but they are also great combined with other herbs such as basil and parsley, and with the addition of the unmissable salt and pepper to make a seasoning.
Marjoram is most famous for its place in the English recipe of roast goose with chestnut stuffing. You can find a recipe here.
Marjoram is also a common ingredient in a seasoning used for German sausages. Marjoram works best with poultry, vegetables, cheeses and can be added to bread as well. Due to its mildly sweet flavor, it can be used to flavor liqueurs and vinegar and can even be used in desserts such as crème Brulee, tarts, and fruit such as apples, melons, and mango. In case you are curious, here is a recipe using marjoram in a creme brulee.
If you have done even the most basic of cooking, you will know that oregano is a fundamental ingredient in pizza and pasta. Sometimes oregano is known as ‘the pizza herb’. This is because oregano is a perfect match for tomatoes. However, with its stronger flavor, oregano also goes well with red meats. For example, oregano is usually found in many Greek lamb dishes but also works well with burgers. It is also well suited to beans and wonderful in bread. I forgot the oregano with kitchen (below), one of my favorite recipes
As outlined by the Herb Society of America an average teaspoon of dried marjoram has 2 calories, .04 grams of fat, .36 grams carbohydrate, .08 grams protein, .2 grams fiber, 12 mg of calcium, 9 mg of potassium, and 48 IU of vitamin A. It also has small amounts of a variety of other vitamins and minerals.
Oregano has more than double the nutritional value of marjoram, with the same quantity of dried oregano having 6 calories, .2 grams protein, .18 grams fat, and 1.16 grams carbohydrate, and .8 grams fiber. It also contains 28 mg calcium, 30 mg potassium, and 124 IU vitamin A.
However, the major nutritional advantage of oregano is that it also includes two flavonoids (galangin and quercetin) which are rich in antioxidant activity.
|Nutrition Fact (per 1 teaspoon dried)
Interesting to note the significantly higher value of vitamin A of oregano compared to marjoram. Just to have an idea, a healthy individual needs 3000IU of Vitamin A daily. So 1 small teaspoon of oregano gives you already 5% of it!
Can Marjoram and Oregano Grow Together?
Marjoram and oregano have similar growing needs and can both be successfully grown indoors in containers. One plant of each in a pot may be all you need to keep a fresh supply of Mediterranean herbs. You just need to make sure they get between 6-8 hours of full sun to maximize the oil content and scent of the herbs.
Remember also to guarantee an adequate distance between them. It is recommended to keep your plants around 5cm (2 inches) apart. Why?
This will allow your herbs to get enough direct light onto the leaves and to ensure good air circulation around the plants. If not they might grow and start shading each other.
These herbs are relatively hardy and tolerate dry soil better than wet. Established plants are drought tolerant. It is recommended for both marjoram and oregano to wait for the soil to be completely dry before watering and make sure the container allows for good drainage. They flourish in a wide soil pH of between 4.9 to 8.7.
Propagating From Cuttings: Marjoram or Oregano?
Here’s the deal
Both of these herbs can be easily grown from cuttings. To propagate the herb, cut a branch right down at the semi-hard, woody portion of the stem. Remove the leaves at the bottom leaving 1 or 2 nodes (the “bump” in the stem where the leaves were) in the middle. Drop such little stem in water and after 1-2 weeks, the first water roots will start appearing from the submerged nodes. This makes growing through cloning (yes, you are cloning plants) easy.
Also, in case you didn’t know, propagating from cuttings is the best choice to have only high quality and tasty herbs. Indeed, due to natural genetic variations, from 10 different oregano plants (for instance) 1 or 2 might be tastier than the rest. If only those are propagated by cutting, then you can have a fleet of only tasty herbs. Moreover, with propagation by cutting, no need to wait for the seed to develop, you have already a fully grown plant.
Both marjoram and oregano are classified as a perennial herb, but they are described as ‘tender’ ones. This means that in cooler climates they will behave more like an annual, ceasing production in the cooler weather. Despite can tolerate cold temperatures, they will not survive a below zero (celsius) temperature. They are not that hardy. So I would recommend growing them indoors in the winter months if your winters are harsh. However, in the warmer climates, it can survive for 3-4 years and fresh leaves will be available for much of the year.
While not required for outdoors, fertilizer is recommended for these herbs when they are grown indoors. This can be done by supplementing a ¼-1/2 strength fertilizer mix for every second watering.
Despite possible, it is not always easy growing these herbs indoors due to the very dry humidity environments that can result from house AC. For this reason, it is recommended that these herbs be located away from heaters and air-conditioning vents.
Oregano is the closest herb to marjoram and is the number one substitute if marjoram is not available. However, given their differences, there are two things you may need to consider when using oregano instead of marjoram:
Less oregano: oregano has a stronger spicy flavor. I would then use less than the amount suggested for marjoram and test the taste before adding more (I would start with a third and add during the preparation if I believe the flavor is too bland).
If possible, no oregano stems: If the recipe calls for full marjoram stems to be added, oregano stems might probably need to be removed later. This is because oregano stems are generally hardier than those of marjoram.
Marjoram and oregano are two wonderful herbs to bring fresh scents and great flavors to your cooking. While they are different, either one or even both will be a great addition to your indoor garden.
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