In Kodiak, Alaska, with winter breathing down our necks, there’s a lot to do. In the garden, it’s time to pick and put up mega-crops like potatoes, onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes. They’re pantry fillers for sure. And while a home-grown onion is a beautiful thing, it’s easy to overlook petite plants like parsley, sage, and other herbs. Herbs don’t fill pantries and bellies as fast as fruits and vegetables do, but some have a power-punch that most veggies can only dream of. Take oregano, for example…
No longer confined to jars in the spice cabinet, new research is discovering more properties and uses for oregano as antibacterial and antifungal agents for example. And here is something you can share at your next coffee shop meeting: Oregano is also being tested for its ability to reduce the methane production (hmm, I think that’s called farting) in cows, which emit about 100 kg of the greenhouse gas per year per cow.
An important culinary herb, oregano leaves are used in cuisines of the Mediterranean, the Philippines and Latin America. In Greece it adds flavor to the classic Greek salads as well as their famous lemon-olive oil sauce that accompanies fish dishes. In southern Italy, oregano (a member of the mint family) is used extensively with roasted, fried, or grilled vegetables, meat, and fish. Its popularity in the U.S. is said to have been sparked when soldiers, returning home from WWII, brought back a taste for the ‘pizza herb.’
On our front deck, by the door closest to the kitchen, oregano shares a large container with sage and parsley, the three herbs that I use to enhance baked potatoes. The recipe is called Stained Glass Potatoes. I sprinkle the chopped herbs on a baking pan that’s been coated with olive oil, toss on a few calendula blossoms and then set halved potatoes, cut side down, on top of the herbs. After baking the spuds for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees, the herbs and flowers create beautiful patterns on the potato “pallets.”
Fresh sprigs of oregano also flavor our vinegars, soups, butters, salad dressings, muffins, yeast breads, and tea. Yes, tea. When I feel the twinges of a cold coming on, I brew a batch of oregano-garlic tea. The original recipe comes from a student who demonstrated how to make this tea as her final project in my college Organic Gardening class. Like the container on the front deck, oregano shares the stage with other ingredients; in this case, some unlikely ones.
Over the past several years I’ve been able to substantially reduce the symptoms of a cold or stop it in its tracks altogether by drinking this tea.
So the next time you feel a sore throat or cold-flu coming on, give this tea a try.
2 cups water
A few slices red onion
4 to 6 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano or 2 Tbl dried
4 to 6 slices fresh ginger
2 Tbl lemon juice
2 tsp honey or other sweetener
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
Directions: Place water, onion, garlic, oregano, and ginger in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and steep for 15-20 minutes. It will turn a nice pink-blush color. Remove from heat and stir in lemon and sweetener. Pour into a mug and take small sips; inhale the steam, too.
I admit, oregano-garlic tea might not be the tastiest hot brew on the planet (especially in the morning), but you’ll get used to it. Besides, if it doesn’t cure you, it won’t hurt you either.