Guide to the herb marjoram with recipe ideas and details of therapeutic benefits.
Marjoram is not as well known as some of the other more popular herbs and it is often mistaken for oregano due to the fact that it is similar in taste and appearance and is actually a type of oregano.
There are three types of marjoram: sweet or knotted marjoram (Origanum majorana), pot marjoram (Origanum onites) and wild marjoram or oregano (Origanum vulgare).
Wild marjoram is what we know as oregano and sweet marjoram is the herb that we simply refer to as marjoram.
In any case, after all the confusion, the two herbs are different but they both belong to the same family (Labiatae), the mint family!
History of marjoram
Both marjoram and oregano are thought to have originated in Asia and then quickly became cultivated in the Mediterranean region.
Marjoram was probably the most popular with the Ancient Greeks, who used the herb medicinally, symbolically and in cooking.
Both the Ancient Greeks and Romans deemed marjoram as a symbol of love and happiness and often crowned bridal couples with a wreath of sweet marjoram to ensure that this is what their marriage would hold.
By the same token, for the deceased who were lucky enough to have marjoram growing on their grave, they would be blessed with peace and eternal happiness.
Nutritional value of marjoram
As marjoram is somewhat milder and less potent than it's cousin oregano, it can be used in larger quantities without overpowering or spoiling a dish.
Marjoram is rich in a number of minerals and is an excellent source of calcium, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium. It also contains very good amounts of Vitamins A and C.
Therapeutic uses of marjoram
Marjoram has traditionally been used over the centuries as a treatment for indigestion, an antiseptic and to relieve pain.
Some say that a steam inhalation containing marjoram can clear the sinuses and relieve a sore throat or laryngitis. It is said that many singers drink marjoram tea in order to keep their voices in the best shape possible.
Marjoram is known to have a number of other therapeutic values, which are noted in the list below:
- Marjoram has sedative properties, which can help treat insomnia.
- It is a digestive and can therefore relieve gas, flatulence, cramps and other digestive complaints.
- Marjoram can stimulate the appetite.
- Marjoram is an expectorant and can help bring up mucus from the lungs. This is important to help remedy bronchitis and other chest complaints.
- It is able to help treat mouth disorders such as laryngitis, sore throat, thrush, inflamed gums and toothache.
- Marjoram promotes and induces sweating or perspiration, which is good for colds and flu.
- The essential oil may be applied externally to bruises, swellings or sprains.
- It can help relieve headaches or earache.
- Marjoram is said to be a stimulant and tonic, which is good if you are feeling tired, run-down or depressed.
- Marjoram promotes menstruation and stimulates regular blood flow.
Buying and storing marjoram
Marjoram can be bought from your local supermarket either fresh or dried. Unlike many herbs, marjoram and oregano dry really well, better than practically every other herb, in fact. Therefore, if buying dried marjoram, much of the original flavour is retained.
In saying this, however, it is always better to use fresh herbs if possible in cooking. When choosing fresh marjoram, try to look for a fresh and healthy-looking herb, without any discolouration or blemishes.
Fresh marjoram should be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped in damp paper towels and placed in a plastic bag. If possible, store your fresh marjoram in the lower part of the fridge, where it will keep for several days.
Culinary uses of marjoram
Marjoram has a delicate and slightly sweet flavour and it goes well with a number of different types of foods. It is traditionally partnered with meat, particularly lamb, veal, beef, pork and chicken but goes just as well with vegetables, pulses or seafood.
It is important to note, however, that marjoram does not withstand the cooking process well and its flavour and aroma are destroyed by high temperatures and long cooking times. Therefore, it is almost always added at the end of the cooking process or just before serving.
Why not try some of the ideas below for using marjoram in the kitchen:
- Sprinkle chopped marjoram over your favourite pizza.
- Use in minced meat mixtures, such as sausages, meatballs or bolognaise.
- Sprinkle over a fresh salad.
- Marjoram goes very well with cheese, egg or tomato dishes.
- Try adding marjoram to soups, stews and sauces.
- Use marjoram in stuffing mixtures.
- Add marjoram to a cheese omelette or quiche.
- Use in place of oregano for a gentler flavour.
- Use to flavour homemade bread or herby scones.
- Use in any type of citrus marinade for meat.
- Cook foods that promote bloating and wind, such as cabbage, cauliflower or beans with marjoram to help relive indigestion.
Below are several recipes that include marjoram in their list of ingredients including Marinara pizza, baked eggplant and pork cooked in milk.
You can make this seafood pizza with your own homemade pizza dough and tomato sauce or you can buy a pizza base and prepared sauce from the supermarket, which will save time.
- 1 pizza base
- basic tomato sauce for pizzas
- 7 oz (200 g) of mixed seafood (shrimp, mussels, squid rings, crab)
- 2 oz (55 g) of grated Mozzarella cheese
- ½ oz (15 g) of grated Parmesan cheese
- 12 black olives
- 1 chopped yellow pepper
- 1 tbsp of capers
- 1 tbsp of freshly chopped marjoram
- 1 tsp of dried oregano
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Place the pizza base onto a lightly greased baking tray.
- Spread the tomato sauce evenly all over the pizza base, leaving a small gap around the edges.
- Arrange the mixed seafood, pepper and capers evenly over the tomato sauce.
- Sprinkle the Mozzarella and Parmesan on top of the seafood mixture.
- Sprinkle with the marjoram and dried oregano.
- Arrange the olives on top.
- Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Place into the preheated oven and bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until the pizza crust is golden brown and crispy.
- Remove from the oven and divide into portions. Serve immediately.
Slow-cooked Pork in Milk
This boned leg of pork is cooked slowly until tender in a mixture of milk, peppercorns and herbs.
- 1 lb 12 oz (800 g) of boned leg of pork
- 2 pints (1.1 l) of milk
- 2¾ oz (80 g) of diced pancetta
- 1 oz (30 g) of butter
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 2 tbsp of freshly chopped marjoram
- 2 tbsp of chopped thyme (remove leaves from stem)
- 1 tbsp of crushed green peppercorns
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- Remove any excess fat from the boned pork with a sharp knife. Shape the meat into a neat form or roll and secure with a piece of string.
- Melt the butter and heat with the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the chopped onion, garlic and pancetta and fry over a moderate heat for 3 minutes.
- Add the pork meat to the pan and cook until browned all over.
- Pour the milk into the pan and reduce the heat.
- Add the bay leaves, marjoram, thyme and crushed peppercorns and cook for 1 - 1½ hours or until the meat is soft. Towards the end of the cooking time, you will need to keep an eye on the liquid, as it may reduce too quickly and burn. If necessary add more milk and continue to cook for longer.
- Once the meat is done, remove from the pan and transfer to a carving dish. Keep the cooking liquid.
- Cut the pork into slices and serve onto warmed plates.
- Pour the reserved milk liquid over the meat as a sauce and serve with vegetables and potatoes.
Baked Eggplant (Aubergine)
This is a delicious Italian recipe for baked eggplant (aubergine) that contains lots of fresh and healthy ingredients. It is much tastier if you make the béchamel and tomato sauces from scratch.
- 4 eggplants (aubergines)
- 10 oz (285 g) of Mozzarella, thinly sliced
- 10 fl oz (300 ml) of bechamel sauce
- 4 slices of chopped Parma ham
- 1 oz (30 g) of grated Parmesan
- 3 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tbsp of freshly chopped marjoram
- 1 tbsp of freshly torn basil
- salt and pepper
- For the tomato sauce
- 1 lb (455 g) of fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 14 oz (400 g) tin of chopped tomatoes
- 20 fl oz (600 ml) of vegetable stock
- 5 fl oz (150 ml) of dry white wine
- 1 sliced onion
- 4 crushed cloves of garlic
- 4 tbsp of olive oil
- 4 tbsp of freshly chopped parsley
- 2 tbsp of lemon juice
- 1 tbsp of sugar
- salt and pepper
- First of all, prepare the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a large saucepan.
- Add the chopped onion and garlic and fry for 4 - 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the fresh and tinned tomatoes, vegetable stock, parsley, lemon juice and sugar and stir all of the ingredients together.
- Cover the pan with the lid and cook on a gentle simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour in the wine, taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Cut the eggplant into fairly thin slices lengthways.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the eggplant slices. Boil for 5 minutes.
- Drain the eggplant and dry with kitchen paper.
- Pour some of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a large ovenproof dish.
- Add slices of eggplant on top and drizzle with a little olive oil.
- Cover the eggplant with some Mozzarella and Parma ham and sprinkle with a little of the chopped marjoram and basil.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Repeat the layers as above until all the ingredients have been used.
- Pour over the béchamel sauce and top with the Parmesan cheese.
- Place into the oven and bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and serve hot.