Marjoram and oregano originate in the Mediterranean. They are very similar herbs; in fact oregano is actually wild marjoram (oregano has a more intense flavour). Marjoram is a half hardy annual; this means it will only last for one season and it is unlikely that it will survive through the winter months. It is best to sow fresh seeds in spring however some varieties of marjoram are perennial and will survive over the winter months. Their leaves will die down in autumn but their roots will continue to live under the soil. Leaves will then re-grow in spring. Marjoram prefers a well-drained site in full sun. It grows well in containers and is extremely useful in the kitchen.
Varieties of Marjoram
There are three varieties of marjoram normally grown in the UK:
- Wild marjoram (oregano).
- Pot marjoram.
- Sweet or knotted marjoram.
How to Grow Marjoram
Marjoram grows best in full sun, in a well-drained soil of average to low fertility. Sow seeds from April, 2cm deep and approximately 15cm apart in a well-prepared seedbed. After about 2-3 weeks, thin seedlings to 30cm apart to give the plants room to grow to their full size.
Caring for Marjoram
As marjoram is tolerant of most conditions, it requires very little care. In the first few months, ensure the plants do not dry out, but after they have become established they should cope well with drought. Try to avoid letting the plants become waterlogged, however. Marjoram is a Mediterranean plant and is not used to wet conditions. If you can’t grow marjoram in a well-drained soil then grow it in a container with plenty of grit to aid drainage.
The leaves of marjoram should be harvested in July, just before the flowers appear. If the leaves are harvested after the flowers appear they can taste bitter. However, removing the flower heads before they open can keep the leaves tasting great, and can ensure you can harvest them right up until November.
Wild marjoram is most commonly used as a dried herb; pick the leaves on a dry day and store them in a dark, dry warm place until they are crumbly in texture. Then store the dried leaves in an airtight container where they will retain their flavour for up to 6 months. However sweet or knotted marjoram is best used as a fresh herb; simply harvest them when required.
Growing Marjoram in a Container
Marjoram is well suited to being grown in pots. Sow seeds indoors in March in a small pot then transplant into a 30cm diameter pot in May. Water the pot when the soil dries out (terracotta pots tend to dry out much quicker than plastic alternatives). As with all herbs, feeding marjoram can impair the flavour of its leaves. Only feed once or twice during the season and use an organic feed such as seaweed.
Marjoram is a fantastic herb to grow in the garden. It can be used fresh or dried, and is a great accompaniment to pizza and pasta dishes. All types of marjoram are easy to grow and do well in containers. They have an intense flavour and so only a few leaves are needed to perk up a meal.