Oregano (Origanum Vulgare) is a member of the mint family. It is one of the most popular culinary herbs. Oregano is a native of the Mediterranean region. It is also grown in Italy, Turkey, Mexico and Greece. In India, it is cultivated in Kashmir, Himanchal, Uttarakhand and in the Nilgiris. Oregano has strong aromatic camphor like flavour. It is piquant, warm, pungent and slightly bitter in taste.

Oregano has a several health benefits. It has a high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids. This makes it a very good antioxidant. It is also believed to have antimicrobial properties. Oregano is said to be “nature’s natural antiseptic”. Because of high thymol content, the leaves are a strong antiseptic. A paste of the leaves is applied on the wounds to prevent infection and for fast healing. Oregano is very helpful in colds, sore throat, bronchitis and sinusitis. It is an expectorant and a mucolytic. It is diaphoretic and cures mild fevers. Oregano tea is traditionally had to stimulate digestion. It eases bloated stomach and is a carminative. It also gives relief in painful menstruation. Oregano tea is also a strong sedative. It has soothing effect and aids in sound sleep. However, it should not be taken in large doses. Oregano also has antiviral and anti fungal properties. It has shown positive results in psoriases and other fungal diseases. It also controls certain allergies and hay fever. It is also anti spasmodic, anti inflammatory and diuretic.
Besides health benefits, Oregano is the most popular kitchen herb. It is a pleasantly flavourful herb and is most popularly used in pizza seasoning. It is also popularly known as “pizza herb”. It adds flavour to pasta, soups and sauces. It is an essential ingredient of the Italian dishes.
Oregano grows very well in Kumaon. Villages have been given incentives by some NGO’s to cultivate oregano with a special buy back facility. Villagers are growing Oregano in their fields and selling it and more and more farmers are switching to oregano cultivation. One can see the locally processed oregano packets in the shelves of the departmental stores in the region. They are much cheaper than the branded products. Oregano can be easily grown at home. It is a hardy plant, needs well drained soil and plenty of sunshine. It can be grown from the seeds, by stem cuttings or root division. It grows very well in the pot also. The plant has reddish stem, the leaves are slightly hairy and the flowers are pale purple. The leaves, stalk and the flowers, all constitute the spice. The crop should be harvested in full bloom for maximum flavour and aroma. The harvested parts should be shade dried and stored for use.

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