A versatile seasoning, marjoram adds delightful aroma and minty, sweet taste to dressings, soups, butters and sauces. It's a key ingredient in several classic spice blends--like fines herbs and bouquet garni.
Botanical name: Origanum majorana L.
Also known as knotted marjoram or sweet marjoram, Marjorana hortensis is an herbaceous, aromatic, cold-sensitive perennial. In other words, it grows as a perennial in warm places like its native Portugal, but in colder climates it's treated as an annual. Reaching one or two feet in height, the plant is rather bushy, with hairy, shrub-like stalks and white or purplish-white flowers. When dried, the leaves are light gray/green. Thought to be a cure-all, marjoram was cultivated as a potherb in Egypt over 3,000 years ago. It was also used in both ancient Egypt and Greece for seasoning meats, fish, vegetables and wines. For the ancient Greeks, marjoram was a symbol of happiness; placing marjoram on the grave insured eternal peace. The Greeks also believed that Aphrodite would visit and reveal the future husband of a girl who placed marjoram on her bed. The ancient city of Marjora is named for sweet marjoram, which still adorns its coat of arms. And in Crete it was worn as a badge of honor. Marjoram was used medicinally in the Middle Ages and for cooking in 16th century England.
Directions: In general, you'll want to add marjoram toward the end of dishes that are cooked, to preserve the flavor, which may dissipate with heat.
Suggested Uses: Milder than its close relative oregano, marjoram has a pleasant, slightly spicy, slightly citrusy scent. The taste is minty, sweet, and a little sharp, a bit like tarragon (though there's no relation).
Try marjoram in sauces and soups (especially chowders) and meat dishes (like lamb, beef and pork), with chicken, fish, and seafood, and in breads and stuffings. It combines well with tomatoes and other herbs like bay, black pepper and juniper. A variety of vegetables (like cabbage and potatoes) do well with marjoram, as do salad dressings. Marjoram also makes a delicious herb butter.
Marjoram is a component in many spice blends, too, like bouquet garni, fines herbes, herbes de Provence, za-tar, and sausage and pickle blends. Commercially, marjoram is often used in making salami and sausage. (In fact, in Germany it's called the "sausage herb.") In Western Asia, marjoram is used to flavor breads.
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