|Oregano (Origanum vulgare)|
Believe it or not, oregano is a member of the mint family! It is also close cousin to marjoram, another common kitchen herb. Oregano is native to the temperate climates of Europe, but can be grown as an annual in colder regions. I planted oregano six years ago in my herb garden and it comes back year after year no matter how cold we get. It has even seeded itself into my lawn and survived multiple winters so I'd say it can handle the cold pretty well!
The National Gardening Association suggests that you be sure you purchase Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum) rather than Common Oregano (Origanum vulgare) when planting for culinary use because common oregano lacks flavor. Oregano easily establishes from seed and should be planted in full sun. They have a pretty lavender flower that is enjoyed by all kinds of pollinators, but I would suggest removing the flowers before seeds set to avoid unwanted spread.
This flavorful herb is often used in many ethnic cuisines, but I'm most familiar with its use in Italian, Latin American and Southwestern dishes. (It is an important ingredient in my canned salsa recipe that I will be putting to use again this fall!) The leaves are most flavorful right before flower, but can be harvested at any time for fresh use.
One final note, oregano has some antimicrobial properties but they have not been scientifically validated according Wikipedia. Maybe that's why my homemade spaghetti sauce seems to have a never ending life in my refrigerator! ;) Gather some fresh oregano and enjoy some spaghetti, pizza or salsa in your home this week.
Happy Herb Gardening! :)