The word oregano comes from the Greek language, from the composition of the words "oros" and "ganos", which means "joy of the mountain". This expression reflects the fragrance and cheerful appearance created by the oregano plants growing on the rocky hills of Greece.
Where does it come from?
It is a plant that comes from the Mediterranean area and for centuries has been cultivated only for its fragrance, not for cooking, and is very common in Greece and Egypt.
Pizza dishes and traditional Greek dishes come to mind (a cube of feta cheese, a tablespoon of olive oil, two slices of tomato and a little oregano sprinkled on top, mmmm...), but we come up with another idea that we left to the end.
A year ago I was spending my holidays in Naphlion, a town in southern Greece. In the centre of town I met a local selling dried herbs. I bought a small bag of wild oregano (rigani), which I left in my hotel room, and on my return its fragrance dominated every corner of the room.
The aroma intensifies when the plant is dry.
Oregano. Health benefits
Hippocrates, the "father of medicine" in ancient Greece, knew about the antiseptic properties of oregano and used it to treat digestive and respiratory diseases.
The ancient Egyptians also used it as a healing disinfectant, and the Romans favoured it to stimulate hair growth.
In Turkish folk medicine, oregano oil is used to relieve toothache, as an antiseptic for wounds and as a remedy for inflammations of all kinds - psoriasis, tonsillitis, mouth ulcers, sore gums...
In the United States, oregano oil is a popular dietary supplement used for digestive disorders, candidiasis, and as a preventative therapy during cold and flu season.
With the passage of time, research institutes around the world have begun to study the possible role of oregano in alleviating other diseases, so let's take a look at the latest findings of the 21st century.
Metabolic syndrome. This condition is a combination of overweight, high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high triglycerides (a fat in the blood, a lipid). Researchers in Italy found that oregano extracts worked in the same way as drugs used for metabolic syndrome. Their studies show that their extracts could help weight loss, prevent atherosclerosis and improve lipid profile (high triglycerides).
Colon cancer. "Oregano is widely used in the Mediterranean diet, and is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer," the Italian researchers said in the journal ,,Nutrition and Cancer". When they mixed oregano extract in a test tube with colon cancer cells, the spice stopped cell growth and killed the cells, an effect the researchers labeled ,,oregano-triggered death," stating that, ,,Our findings suggest that oregano in the amounts found in the
Mediterranean diet can kill cancer cells."
High cholesterol. Turkish researchers tested spices in the lab for
its ability to stop oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the key stage in the formation of plaque clogging the arteries), they found that oregano had ,,the most pronounced effect".
Alzheimer's disease. Researchers screened 139 spices for their ability to stimulate the brain chemical (acetylcholine), the same action as drugs that slow Alzheimer's disease, and only oregano extract was as potent as the drugs.
Age spots. Researchers in Taiwan have found that a compound in oregano
can reverse the "hyperpigmentation" that causes age spots and "may be useful in increasing skin whitening agents". The findings were published in the ,,Journal of Dermatological Science''.
Staph infections. Staphylococcus aureus infections usually start in hospitals and
are sometimes fatal. Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have
found that oregano oil is the ,,most potent" S. aureus killer of several compounds tested. Giving it daily to animals injected with the bacteria increased their estimated lifespan by 4-fold.
Oregano oil "may prove to be useful" for "prevention and therapy" of S. aureus infections
, the researchers concluded. So, as noted in
above, the well-known spice oregano has a number of therapeutic effects that make it a supporter of our health.
Source: Healing Spices
Harvesting is done before the plant flowers, when the plant's vitality and aroma are at their peak. Locals catch them in bunches and dry them in a well-ventilated place out of the sun.
Can be stored in bunches, in the pantry, or in airtight jars away from heat or moisture. Kept in optimal conditions, it can be stored for more than a year.
Oregano gives flavour to vegetables - eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers - and meat, especially in roasts of lamb, pork, beef or minced meat, but it is also often found in Greek or Italian dishes such as:
- Tomato sauce
- Fish preparations
- Greek salads
Combinations with other plants:
- Chilli peppers
Combine with other herbs in:
I have chosen perhaps the most representative recipe for oregano. Muscat is a time-consuming preparation, but well worth the effort. Let's get started!
For a preparation of six servings, you need:
- Two medium sliced aubergines
- A quarter cup of olive oil
- 700g minced lamb (or veal)
- Two red onions, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2-3 cloves of minced garlic
- One teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Two teaspoons of salt
- A bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 250ml tomato juice
- Half a cup of chicken or beef soup
- Four medium potatoes, peeled, sliced and washed with cold water
For the béchamel sauce we need:
- 600ml of milk
- 120g butter
- 120g flour
- A pinch of ground nutmeg
- Two yolks
- 100g Parmesan cheese (or cottage cheese)
- Salt to taste
For a more dietetic version, we will not fry the vegetables in oil. The eggplant, for example, soaks up oil like a sponge and we don't want that.
Place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray, place the sliced potatoes, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Leave them in the oven for approx. 20 minutes, until they turn a bright yellow. When done, set aside and repeat the process with the eggplant slices.
While the vegetables are cooking in the oven, sauté the onion in a saucepan, add the mince and stir until the meat turns white. Add garlic, bay leaf, cinnamon, oregano and tomato paste. Stir, leave for a few minutes, then add tomato sauce, salt, pepper and cook for 40 minutes, or until meat is tender. The result should be a viscous meat paste, not watery. Remove the bay leaf and set the pot aside.
Prepare the béchamel sauce by adding the butter to a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour and stir for one minute. Remove from the heat and gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. Add back to the heat and continue stirring. Turn off the heat when it boils. Add the nutmeg and Parmesan (or cheese) and set aside.
Grease a pan with a little butter, place a layer of the baked potatoes, then half of the minced meat cooked earlier, and spread it evenly over the potato layer. Add a layer of eggplant slices, then another layer of meat spread evenly. Beat the egg yolks and add them to the béchamel sauce (which should be warm, not hot), then pour over the top of the tray and spread evenly throughout. The béchamel sauce will work as a binder, so that the mousse doesn't fall apart.
Place the pan in the oven (which has been preheated to 170 degrees) and cook for 30-40 minutes, until you get a golden yellow crust. Leave to cool for 15 minutes and serve with a tomato and cucumber salad.