Origanum maru

BIBLE HYSSOP, SYRIAN OREGANO

 

Young Syrian Oregano

Syrian Oregano is a giant among oreganos. Not only does it get tall when it blooms (about 4 feet), but it is also big on flavor. Similar in taste to the popular Greek Oregano, Syrian Oregano is a much more accommodating plant in the garden.  While it is tall when in bloom, it does not creep and sprawl over the garden like Greek Oregano. In the picture to the left, the new spring growth has shot forth from the ground and grows rapidly. This early growth is quite attractive with soft, bright green leaves and reddish stems. The leaves can be harvested at this stage and right on up until the bloom has been on the branch for a while. As the leaves age, they will become a dark, dusty green and the stems will become a woody brown. These older leaves are not quite as good for fresh use but can be dried and powdered.

Syrian Oregano flower buds perfect for drying. Syrian Oregano extended flower buds.

Syrian Oregano in spring.

The new flower buds (pictured top left) can also be used fresh or dried. Their flavor is very concentrated and is the perfect flourish for a grilled cheese sandwich or a bowl of creamy tomato soup. Once the flower buds have elongated (picture top right) though it is best to pass them by. At this point, usually in early fall, the bush can be cut back to the ground to rest for the winter.  Or, the flowers can be left on until brown so that beneficial wasps and other beneficial insects can feast on them. This does not hurt the plant and, as the flowers become totally brown, the insects no longer find them attractive. At this point the stems can also be cut back to the ground for winter.

The plant below was not cut back in winter and has already started to emerge in spring. It would have been much tidier had it been cut back to about an inch with a hedge trimmer.

 

 

Syrian Oregano, also known as Bible Hyssop, is one of the six plants chosen to be in our
Biblical Herb Garden Six Pack.

 
 

SYRIAN OREGANO (Origanum maru): “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalms 51:7.

Because common Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is not native to the Mediterranean area, much debate has ensued over which plant was referred to in the Bible as Hyssop. It may have even been several different plants used for different and varied purposes. Origanum syriacum is thought to be the true Hyssop of the Bible. A very frost tender plant, true O. syriacum is not offered for sale in this country, so we settle for a subspecies of it, O. maru--or what we refer to in the garden as Syrian Oregano. Oregano was often gathered in bunches and used as a brush or sprinkler for purification rituals. It was surely enjoyed then, as it is today, for its excellent flavor.

In the Middle East, Origanum maru is often used, along with Conehead Thyme and Pink Savory, as an ingredient in the spice blend Zatar. While it is tempting to label a single herb Zatar and while, like the recipe below, a single herb may be mixed with other ingredients, Zatar is an herb and spice blend. The herbs in the mix vary from region to region, similar to curry. Zatar is often spread on bread or pita with a little olive oil and baked something like an herbal pizza.

 

In Carol Saville's excellent book Exotic Herbs, she gives this simple recipe for Zatar:

1/2 cup dried Syrian Oregano
1/4 cup imported edible ground sumac
(make sure to get the edible kind from a Middle Eastern market)
2 tablespoons roasted Sesame Seeds
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Black Pepper to taste

Pita Bread
2/3 Cup Olive oil

In a small bowl add the first five ingredients and stir together to combine. Seal in a glass jar and store out of the light. Makes about 2/3 cup.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Brush pita with olive oil and sprinkle with Zatar and warm in the oven. Or mix equal parts Zatar and Olive Oil and spread over bread and then warm.

 

Fresh flower stems make good wreath additions.

Since Syrian Oregano is one of our most flavorful oreganos, we developed a special recipe for it and the delightfully tasty Italian Oregano Thyme. Oregano Maru and Italian Oregano Thyme Honeyed Pork Chops.

Yet another reason to grow Syrian Oregano is for its long, vibrant green flower stems. These are perfect for use in making fresh herbal wreaths or arrangements. Wreaths take a lot of stems and having a plant that produces in abundance is a definite advantage.

Syrian Oregano would make a great addition to our Gourmet Herb Garden Six Pack.

This plant is often available in plug trays. These trays hold 128 of all the same plant.  They are a great low cost way to fill a lot of space. Each cell is 3/4 of inch by an inch. Check here to see if Syrian Oregano Plug Trays are available.

 

Cultural Information

Height: 2 Feet   

Hardiness: Perennial
in Zones 8-11

Flower Color: White 

Characteristics: Full Sun,
Herbaceous

Uses: Culinary, Ornamental

Organic Syrian Oregano Plant

$4.95 per 3 inch pot

Quantity

 

 

View Other Oreganos 

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