Marjoram is sometimes referred to as the ‘meat herb’; it works fantastically with a wide range of meats both roasted and cooked in stews. But marjoram also works well as an accompaniment to many vegetable-based dishes. In fact, the only type of dish marjoram doesn’t work well with is a dessert.
Marjoram is popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking but works well with many British dishes especially roast meats and poultry stuffing. There are two varieties of marjoram; sweet marjoram and wild marjoram (also known as oregano). When we see marjoram written or spoken about in cooking it refers specifically to sweet marjoram. Marjoram is an aromatic herb and is sweeter and milder than its relative, oregano.
Marjoram leaves can be used fresh or dried. If you grow your own marjoram you can lift the plants in the autumn and dry them for use over the winter (they are not hardy and are unlikely to survive in the ground over the winter months). The dried version of the herb has a much more concentrated flavour, which should be taken into consideration when cooking. The fresh leaves of marjoram have many and varied uses. They can be added to salads or chopped up and used to accompany cold meat and even egg dishes. Marjoram is often used in poultry stuffing and soups. Its aromatic flavour works well with roast meats and liver. A few sprigs of marjoram will liven up a spaghetti bolognaise, or why not try making your own beef burgers and adding marjoram to compliment their flavour? As with many herbs, when adding marjoram to stews and soups, add near the end of the cooking period to ensure the best possible flavour.
If you are lucky enough to grow your own marjoram you can simply snip a few sprigs off the plant with scissors or secateurs as and when you need to. Make sure there are enough leaves remaining on the plant so it can continue to grow properly. Wash the sprigs under fresh running water and remove the leaves from the stalks. Add the leaves sparingly at first and test the flavour of your dish before adding more (this ensures you don’t add too much marjoram and spoil your meal).
Towards the end of the growing season (around October in most areas of the UK) you may want to dig up the whole plant to dry for use over the winter. Simply hang the plant by its roots in a dry, well-ventilated place until the leaves are crumbly.
Marjoram is a fantastic herb to use over the winter months as its flavour is intensified in the drying process (many herbs lose their flavour when dried). It has a delicate fragrance that invites one to tuck into the meal. Marjoram combines well with other herbs (such as thyme and sage) and will enhance the flavour of many different dishes. It is the perfect herb for seasoning meat but also works well when added to a medley of roast vegetables or fish and chicken stews, soups and casseroles. It also works well with dishes that include eggs or cheese.