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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Seasonings: Marjoram

It is a tender perennial (a perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years) herb usually grown as an annual (annual or yearly is a word often used to describe something that happens once a year). It is a somewhat cold-sensitive herb or under-shrub with sweet pine and citrus flavors. It has a dense, shallow root system and an unusually bushy habit. Its hairy, branched stems are topped with clusters of tiny white or pink flowers in summer, making it a pretty addition to the herb garden, or in a pot or hanging basket.

Marjoram is indigenous to the Mediterranean area, and was known to the Greeks and Romans as a symbol of happiness. Egyptians used marjoram, along with other fragrant spices, to appease the gods in the embalming process. Hippocrates included marjoram in the many medical treatises he wrote and it was cultivated in the Roman Empire. Symbolizing happiness, when marjoram is found growing on a grave, it is said that the departed will enjoy a pleasant afterlife.

Marjoram needs full sun and rish, well-drained soil to thrive. Buy a plant to start with, or grow your own from seed sown indoors in midspring. Leave the tiny seed uncovered. Transplant the seedlings outdoors in small clumps after all the danger of frost has past.
Space clumps 8 inches apart. Weed frequently until the plant gets established. Pinch off the flower buds to promote business and more leaves. To overwinter plants indoors, dig up and pot them in the fall.

Pick the leaves as needed after the flower buds form. Before the flowers open, cut all the stems to 1 inch above the ground. Hang them to dry in a warm, dark place. Rub the stems on a screen to shred the leaves, discard the stems, and store in an airtight container.

Marjoram is something like mild oregano, with a hint of balsam. Use the fresh or dried leaves and flowers in recipes; add fresh spriggs to salads. The flavor of marjoram is especially good with beef, lamb, roast poultry, green vegetables, carrots, eggplant, eggs, potatoes, squash and tomatoes. Add it to stews, dressings, herb butters, soups and stuffing.

Particularly good with lamb. Accents mushrooms nicely. Perfect in scrambled eggs. omeles or souffle by adding 1/4 teaspoon to every 4 eggs. Season rice with marjoram, chervil, parsley and thyme and serve with roast chicken or lamb.

Marjoram tea has been used historically for relief from symptoms of hay fever, sinus congestion, indigestion, asthma, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, colds, coughs, and nervous disorders.  It is a gently fragrant, calming herb that does have mild antioxidant and anti-fungal properties.  Unsweetened tea can also be used as a mouthwash or gargle.

Make a stomach soothing tea by adding 1-2 teaspoons of the dried herb to 1 cup boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes then drain. Drink up to 3 cups a day.

A calming oil, it has a warming effect on both mind and body and soothes tense muscles after exercise. It is beneficial for occasional simple nervous tension.

Externally, Marjoram leaves can be ground into a paste (add hot tea or water, and a little oatmeal for consistency purposes, if desired), and used for the pain of rheumatism and for sprains.  The leaves can be made into an oil for relief of toothache pain - drop a few drops of the oil on the affected tooth. Leaves can also be placed in cheesecloth or a coffee filter and placed under the tap for a fragrant and refreshing bath that is believed good for the skin.

1 comment:

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