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Oregano – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce

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Jul 21, 2021

What is oregano?

Found in the fresh produce department among other herbs, oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a popular and tasty addition to a wide range of popular foods, including:

  • Pizza and pizza dough
  • Italian sauces and dishes
  • Salads (as a fresh ingredient)
  • Mozzarella and tomatoes
  • Pasta recipes
  • Greek dishes
  • Tomato-based recipes
  • Bread
  • Dressings and marinades

Also called Spanish thyme and wild marjoram, the herb is part of the mint family. It is a perennial and is green and leafy with round leaves. Oregano has a taste that is described as a balance between sweet and spicy. Earthy and bold in flavor, it has a slightly bitter flavor profile.

Different varieties (as many as 10) of the oregano plant exist, and each has a slightly different flavor. All of them contain an essential oil that has been used for medicinal purposes over the ages.

Is oregano a spice or herb?

Oregano is an herb because it comes from a plant. Like rosemary, parsley, and basil, it has aromatic leaves. Spices (like cinnamon) are considered to be in a different category because they are made from aromatic seeds, flowers, and the roots of plants. They are typically dried and crushed.

That said, oregano can also be found in dried and crushed forms in the spice section of grocery stores.

Home chefs seeking fresh ingredients prefer the leafy variety but may keep the dried leaves on hand, too, along with their comprehensive herb and spice collection.

Where did oregano originate from?

Oregano had its beginnings in the Mediterranean hills, specifically Greece. It then expanded to Western Asia and Northern Africa and then naturalized in parts of Mexico and the United States. It was not commonly used in the U.S. until after World War II.

But back in ancient times, people believed that oregano was created by the goddess Aphrodite because it was a symbol of joy in her gardens. In fact, the word “oregano” has its roots in the Greek terms oros (mountain) and ganos (joy).

Oregano has played a role throughout history for its medicinal value:

  • Its leaves were chewed as a cure for toothaches, indigestion, and coughing during the middle ages.
  • The Chinese adopted oregano to reduce fever and vomiting.
  • People in Elizabethan times believed that oregano brought about good luck and used it in spells for luck, protection, letting go of a loved one, producing psychic dreams, and perpetuating happiness and tranquility.

Today, it is used primarily in cooking, but health-focused consumers still incorporate it into their healing regimens.

What are the benefits of eating oregano?

Oregano is very high in antioxidants. These are compounds that help fight body damage from harmful free radicals. Among the antioxidants found in oregano are:

  • Tryptophan
  • Lysine
  • Valine
  • Arginine
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E (tocopherol)

It also contains fiber, calcium, phosphorous, and potassium.

How is oregano grown?

Oregano plants thrive in the sun. The best time for planting is about 6 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost. Oregano can be grown from seeds or from cuttings from an existing plant. The soil should be warm, and the plants should be grown about 8 to 10in apart. The oregano plants typically grow up to 2ft tall and can spread about 18in.

The plants don’t need as much water as other types of fresh herbs.

When is oregano in season?

The best time of year for oregano is the summer. When harvested before the plants sprout flowers, it has the most flavor. You can, however, find it year-round and have it delivered fresh to your kitchen in under 2 hours.

How do you pick oregano at the grocery store?

Oregano can usually be found in plastic clamshell containers in the fresh produce department of the grocery store. Look in and make sure that the branches are a rich green color. Fresh oregano will have a strong fragrance.

Use Instacart for same-day delivery or pick-up when shopping for oregano. Once it is added to your cart,  use the Instructions option to give specific preferences or directions on choosing the best products. Shop for fresh oregano here.

How to store oregano

Fresh oregano will last about 3 to 5 days if stored properly. You can place it in the refrigerator in its original packaging or re-package it in plastic bags. Placing a slightly damp paper towel in the bag with the oregano may extend the life up to a week.

If the herb isn’t used in that timeframe, dry it using a variety of techniques.

How to tell if oregano is bad

When the leaves are limp, fresh oregano is past its prime. It will become soft, limp, and soggy, and its rich flavor will fade. Watch out for discolored leaves (yellow or brown) as well.

What can I substitute for oregano?

Among the many substitutes for oregano are:

  • Basil (fresh or dried)
  • Thyme (fresh only)
  • Italian seasoning (dried)
  • Marjoram (dried)
  • Sage (fresh or dried)

Experienced chefs tend to use multiple herbs in their cooking and food preparation. Consider combining oregano with other fresh herbs in your cooking. Experiment with different flavor profiles.

Where can I find oregano near me?

All year-round, fresh herbs are available via Instacart. You can conveniently order oregano, along with a wide range of other fresh herbs and produce. Enjoy the convenience of 2-hour pick-up or delivery and know that the products you’re getting are fresh, healthy, and useful.

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