The name oregano comes from the Greek, meaning ‘joy of the mountains’. I can easily imagine an ancient Greek shepherd with a bunch of sheep, picking springs of oregano leaves from a woody bush on a rocky hillside. Fresh oregano has a robust, woodsy flavour that makes it one of my go-to herbs in the kitchen.
It’s not often that I’d choose a dried herb over fresh. The flavour difference between fresh and dried thyme is enormous. Fresh thyme is softer and more complex, while dried can be bitter. Dried rosemary is often tasteless and dried parsley is like little flecks of green dirt. But dried oregano adds a flavour that both compliments and complements, without dominating other ingredients. It also gives you that ‘this-is-Italian’ kind of flavour. Besides Italian kitchen, dried oregano is also used in Mexican, Turkish and of course Greek cuisines.
Fresh oregano, with its flat leaves, has an agressive flavour and a slightly metallic taste. But when used with the right ingredients, you have a winning herb. Oregano and beans. This is a match made in heaven. Chop a bunch of fresh oregano and add it to a pot of beans in the last few minutes of cooking. Your entire pot will get infused with that earthy flavour. Oregano makes an exceptionally robust and savory pesto. Try drizzling some over a salad, mix it with roasted veggies or simply brush some ona a piece of grilled bread. Finely mince a few tablespoons and massage them right into the bread dough before it hits the oven. Wow. Joy of mountains indeed.