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December 2011 Issue
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Oregano – Wild Food

Description: Oregano is a common species of wild herb and a member of the mint family. It is a perennial herb, growing from 20-80cm tall, with leaves 1-4cm long. The flowers are purple, 3-4mm long, produced in erect spikes and will tolerate temperatures to -5°C.  

Season: Oregano is around from early spring, flowering in early summer and still in flower until mid to end of May.

Leaves: The leaves are where most of the plant’s uses come from. Raw or cooked, Oregano is an important flavouring herb in Mediterranean cookery and is often used dried rather than fresh. The leaves are used in flavouring salad dressings, vegetables and included in strongly-flavoured dishes with chillies, garlic and onions.

Location: Oregano is commonly found in waste and wild areas throughout the county providing good ground cover in un-manicured areas below altitudes of 1000m.

Why eat them? Oregano has many uses: a herbal tea can be made from the dried leaves and flowering stems, this has a soothing effect that aids in a restful night’s sleep. It has a beneficial effect upon both the digestive and respiratory systems. The leaves and stems of this plant are used as an antiseptic and a stimulant.

The plant is taken internally for the treatment of colds, influenza, mild feverish illnesses and indigestion. It is a strong sedative, though, and should not be taken in large doses.

Unusual tip: A few drops of the essential oil, distilled from the plant, put on cotton wool and placed in the hollow of an aching tooth will relieve toothache. It is also one of the best natural antiseptics around because of its high thymol content.

– Ben Francis