Marjoram, Origanum hortensis, is from the family Lamiaceae and is closely related to basil, lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme. Pronounced "MAHR-juhr-uhm".
Native to northern Africa and southwest Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), Marjoram has been used since ancient times. For a long time, Oregano was known as "wild marjoram" and because they share the same genus, Origanum, italicize some botanists believe Marjoram and Oregano are practically indistinguishable. Most chefs do not share this opinion, and believe that to the discerning palate the flavor differences are quite noticeable.
Marjoram is probably most familiar to Americans as a key ingredient in Italian sausage links, pizza sauce and turkey stuffing.
Marjoram has 0.3% to 1% essential oil, primarily monoterpenes including cis-sabinene hydrate (8% to 40%), ?-Terpinene (10%) and a-Terpinene (7.6%).
Marjoram is called murdiqush (Arabic), Mò jiao lán (Madarin), marjolaine (French), Majoran (German), kuthara (Hindi), Maggiorana (Italian), Majoramu (Japanese), Manjerona (Portuguese), mayoran (Russian) and Mejorana (Spanish). It's also known as wild oregano, sweet marjoram and knotted marjoram.
Marjoram comes from late Middle English which was borrowed from Old French "majorane" which was derived from medieval Latin "majorana", but its ultimate origin is believed by some Etymologists to be from the Sanskrit "maruva" (which also means "marjoram").
Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, is said to have adored this herb. The Greeks called this plant "joy of the mountain" and used it as a natural treatment for many ailments including convulsions, edema and poisoning. In ancient Egypt, marjoram was used in healing, disinfecting, and preserving. Marjoram's first culinary use was it being added to a dish as a way to encourage civility. Marjoram also was a key ingredient in "love potions", and legend has it that young women would place marjoram under their pillow at night as the ensuing dreams would reveal their future husband.
Marjoram was used to brew beer before hops was discovered. Beer made without hops (the original ale) tended to be an excessively sweet beverage. The early beers of the Middle Ages in Britain used a complex blend of herbs and spices called gruit to help balance some of the sweet malt notes with the often sour or wild yeast flavors and aromas. Gruit's use was widespread throughout Europe until the 15th and 16th centuries with the passing of the German beer purity law stating that only water, barley and hops could be used in beer production.
Marjoram was grown throughout colonial America and was valued both in numerous dishes of the day and for its medicinal qualities. Marjoram was one of 16 herbs that Thomas Jefferson listed in his 1794 garden book "Objects for the garden this year".
In warmer climates, Marjoram is grown as a perennial, while in colder locations it is treated more as an annual. It grows easily from seeds, has a shallow root system and should not be planted until after the last frost. Grows 8"-10" in height, thrives in dry conditions and does well in full sun. The plant has square branched stems with gray hairs and small, oval shaped, pale green leaves. Marjoram has tiny flowers that have a knotty shape before blooming in spherical clusters on spikes or corymbs (pronounced "ko?r-im"). The color of the flowers may be pink, red or white. Marjoram flowers in mid-season, and removing the flower buds as they form encourages more leaf production and extends the life of the plant.
Marjoram is commercially grown in Central and Eastern Europe, England, India, the Mediterranean, South America and the US.
Egypt is the world's leading producer of marjoram.
Our Organic Marjoram is cultivated in Egypt.
There are various opinions on what's better - fresh or dried herbs. Some herbs, when dried, lose most of their flavor. These would include cilantro, curry leaves, dill weed, lemon grass and tarragon. Drying technologies have greatly advanced over the last decade or so, and this has allowed these dried herbs to better retain their flavor, but these herbs still tend to be better fresh.
Some herbs have completely different reactions when dried, and instead of losing their flavor, these herbs actually taste better. When these herbs are dried, the structures in the plant tissue collapse, increasing the amount of the herb's essential oil that can be readily absorbed in foods. Herbs that are better when dried include marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme.
The French add Marjoram to the herb blends Bouquet Garni and Fines Herbes for flavoring fish, lamb and pork dishes. In Germany, it's called the "sausage herb" and is used with thyme and other spices in different types of sausages. Marjoram is popular in Greek cooking, for grilled lamb and meats and to complement onions, garlic, and wine. Italians use it in fish dishes, pizzas, tomato sauces and vegetables. North Africans and Middle Easterners use Marjoram in barbecues, lamb, mutton, seafood and vegetables.
Marjoram compliments clam chowder, eggplant, salads, salad dressings, butter-based sauces, fish sauces, mushroom sauces, tomato-based sauces, soups, and vinegar. It enhances the flavor of vegetables such as cauliflower, peas, spinach and tomatoes.
Marjoram works well in combination with basil, bay, black pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic, paprika, parsley, rosemary and juniper.
Add Marjoram toward the end of cooking to retain its delicate flavor.
Marjoram's taste is a bit sweet and minty with a subtle spiciness, a little sharp and has citrusy undertones.
Substitute 1:1 with basil, oregano and savory or use half as much thyme as your recipe calls for.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*