628 Origanum majoranaCommon Names: sweet marjoram, knotted marjoram, wurstkraut Family: Lamiaceae (mint Family)
Sweet marjoram is a bushy half-hardy perennial sub-shrub that is often grown as an annual. Origanum majorana is 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) tall with descending, multi-branched stems that spill over to create a mound. Since the stems take root where they touch the soil, the mound gradually increases in diameter. If grown in a hanging basket, the stems form a a cascade of attractive gray-green foliage. Sweet marjoram's oval leaves are soft and fuzzy, but you need a hand lens to see the short fine hairs. They are opposite each other on a square stem which is typical of plants in the mint family. The leaves get up to an 1 in (2.5 cm) long and have a wonderful, very distinctive, perfumy fragrance when bruised. The flowers are tiny, less than 1/8 in (0.3 cm) long and arranged in burrlike heads 1/2 in (1.3 cm) long.
Wild marjoram is another name for oregano (O. vulgare). Pot marjoram (O. onites) has larger flowers and a less pleasing (to me) fragrance. Hardy marjoram, a.k.a. Italian oregano, (Origanum X majoricum) is a hybrid resulting from crossing oregano and sweet marjoram. It combines the pungency of Greek oregano with the sweetness of marjoram.<
Sweet marjoram, Origanum majorana, is native to North Africa, Turkey and SW Asia. It has naturalized in the Mediterranean region of southern Europe.
CultureSweet marjoram does best in a well-drained, slightly limey soil Light: Prefers full to nearly full sun. In the hottest part of summer, it should be given more shade. Moisture: Sweet marjoram dries out rather quickly. It likes a well-drained soil and frequent watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 10. Sweet marjoram is frost-tender. Bring it indoors if frost threatens. It can, of course, be grown outdoors as an annual and replanted in the spring. Propagation: It's easy (but slow) to grow sweet marjoram from seed, but it's better to start it from cuttings so you will know exactly what the plant will smell like. Cuttings root readily any time of the year.
No herb garden should be without sweet marjoram. The soft, gray-green leaves add a texture and color that contrasts gently with the more assertive herb plants like rosemary, sage and bright green parsley.
Most herbs are better preserved by freezing than drying, but sweet marjoram retains its fragrance after drying better than any other herb. I keep a Mason jar of dried marjoram leaves and flower heads on the shelf over the stove. I use it in spaghetti sauce, eggplant parmesan and lasagna: anything with tomatoes. Try sprinkling some on pizza. It's a must for turkey stuffing. Sweet marjoram is an important flavoring in German sausages, and it is used extensively in French, Italian and Portuguese cuisine.
The fresh perfume of sweet marjoram is delightful in potpourri and scented pillows. The French put it in linen drawers. It is used in commercial perfumes.
The Greeks made wreaths and garlands of sweet marjoram for marriage and funeral ceremonies. It was believed that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, created sweet marjoram as a gentle symbol of happiness.
Steve Christman 1/10/00; updated 5/7/03, 10/30/03