In Praise of Oregano

antique botanical print of oregano featuring parts of the herb

Fireflies, grill smoke, and my grandfather wearing a laurel made of mint stems. These are a few of the memories that light up my senses when I think about the summers of my childhood. At every picnic my parents hosted, he would take a trip to the mint bed, pluck a few stems to ward off mosquitoes, and craft a laurel fit for Caesar.

It seems after all these years that my grandfather’s trick still holds weight. Year after year, the mint bed on the side of my house deters mosquitoes from that area. Perhaps I started planting it in remembrance of my grandfather and his funny little quirk, but the delightful truth is – it works. Mosquitoes certainly show no signs of mint resistance.

Herbs have a rich scent that I find more appealing than the flowers in my garden. Maybe it’s the cook in me, but I perk up when the breeze sends rosemary and oregano my way. This year kitchen herbs are flourishing in a wood planter box on my front porch. Container gardening can be challenging, but herbs do well in this environment, particularly when they have a sunny spot. When that spot is at the front of your house, enjoy passing the green stems and their tiny leaves as you come and go on your daily travels.

The star of this year’s herb garden is most certainly oregano. I haven’t planted it in the past, but I’m using it as fast as my plant can produce leaves worthy of cutting. At the market, it’s hard to find high quality oregano, while bright bunches of basil are readily available, so I had grown less accustomed to using it. Lately I have been experimenting with flavors and using oregano as a substitute for other herbs. I have been finding great pleasure in discovering its nuances.

Fresh oregano is the hearty, sweet yet spicy touch your dishes might be missing. Try it in salad dressings. Add it to just about anything that calls for mustard. Especially use it with sausage. I’ve heard it might even ward off mosquitoes.

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