Marjoram is a culinary herb composed of the fresh or dried leaves of the marjoram plant, which belongs to the mint family, Lamiaceae.
It is used in Italian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking, and is one of the major players in the Italian Seasoning mix you often see on store shelves.
Here is a recipe that the author says was a highlight in Northwestern Italy where she grew up: Marjoram Soup (and it calls for a quarter cup of fresh marjoram!)
So let’s take a look at where marjoram comes from and how it’s used!
What is marjoram
Marjoram is a familiar ingredient that’s being used by food enthusiasts around the globe, especially in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Marjoram, botanically known as Origanum majorana, is the same genus as oregano, but it’s a different species.
This is also one of the reasons the taste of the two herbs is a bit similar.
Originated in the Mediterranean, the western part of Asia, and North Africa, the aromatic herb is sometimes called knotted marjoram as the fuzzy, green, and oval-shaped leaves grow opposite from each other or form into clusters or knots.
It typically reaches 12 to 24 inches tall and 18 inches across.
The marjoram leaves are green pale in color and the plant has two-lipped flowers located in small spike-like clusters and square branching stems covered with hairy leaves.
The spice is also considered perennial, meaning the plant lives more than two years, however, it doesn’t survive prolonged cold temperatures.
This is why marjoram grown in patio pots is brought indoors in winter.
In Greek mythology, marjoram is a Greek word that translates into “Joy of the Mountain.”
It’s believed as a symbol of happiness and is grown by the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite.
Moreover, there are numerous culinary and traditional Mediterranean marjoram uses.
Due to its distinctive flavor profile, the marjoram spice is used to elevate savory dishes ranging from stews, braises, salad dressings, pizza, tomato sauce, and meat.
It’s even one of the spice components of the traditional German sausage, bratwurst, which also generally features salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
What does marjoram taste like?
If you haven’t tried the herb, marjoram’s flavor is milder than oregano and somewhat similar to thyme, but it’s sweeter and has a stronger aroma than the former.
It also has aromatic tones of sweet woody pine and citrus with a combination of warm, sharp, and bitter mouthfeel.
Have you had some marjoram lately? This might be a good time to use up some expiring dried Maggiorana that you have in your spice pantry!
What is marjoram used for
People around the Mediterranean region have used marjoram for centuries in their daily cooking of meals.
If you’re wondering how to cook with marjoram, then this list should get you started!
- Used to season soups, stews, and sauces
- Used for pizzas or over fresh salads
- Combine with other spices to create Italian seasoning
- Included in sausages and meatballs
- Used to season meat-based dishes like beef, lamb, and sometimes seafood
- Included in breakfast favorites like omelet and quiche
Dried marjoram vs fresh marjoram
Fresh marjoram leaves are typically added at the end of the cooking process as this can preserve the herb’s bright and intense flavor.
Meanwhile, crushed dried ones have a more aggressive flavor than fresh so it works great as a herb blend and marinade for your meat-based dishes.
Ground marjoram is even more concentrated still.
You can also include them on top of your pizzas, over fresh salads, to soups and sauces.
I use dried marjoram as one of the key ingredients for my Italian seasoning to flavor my favorite chicken Caprese recipe!
Are you running out of this herb? Don’t worry!
I’ve compiled six of the best marjoram alternatives so you won’t miss the Mediterranean flavor in your recipes!
The bottom line
Marjoram may not be as popular or as easy to find as other leafy spices such as oregano, thyme or basil, it’s just as fragrant and bright.
If you go to AllRecipes and BBC, you’ll see a wide variety of foods and dishes that use marjoram.
Marjoram is pretty versatile in the same way that oregano, mint, and basil often add bright flavor.
- ¼ c of dried marjoram leaves (not fresh or ground)
- 12 oz of fresh, cold water
- Tea ball or cheesecloth
- Sweetener, if desired
- Bring water to a boil. Set aside.
- Pack the dried marjoram into a tea ball or tie the spice into a length of cheese cloth and secure tightly.
- Set marjoram in heat-safe mug and carefully pour the steaming but not boiling water over.
- Steep for 3 to 5 minutes. The longer the tea rests in the water, the more fragrant and strong the tea, but it may become bitter after 5 minutes.
- Remove marjoram and sweeten as desired.
- For iced marjoram tea, pour the sweetened warm tea over ice in a tall glass. Stir.
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