Oregano is a wild herb that has been used for millennia – in food, religious ceremonies, and ancient medicine. Today, there are two distinctly different varieties of oregano, Mediterranean and Mexican, that share the same name yet come from entirely different plant families and have distinctively different flavor profiles.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the history, origins, and common uses for oregano, and will explain what makes the Mexican and Mediterranean varieties each unique in their own way.
Mediterranean and Mexican oregano are quite different from one another, in spite of their shared name. Read on to learn about each of their unique flavor profiles.
This plant is a member of the same genus as marjoram, and is part of the mint family. It has a flavor that is somewhat reminiscent of rosemary, with slightly bitter, minty undertones that pair perfectly with Mediterranean dishes. Mediterranean oregano has a minimum of 2% essential oil content, making it naturally more mild than Mexican oregano.
This plant comes from the same plant family as lemon verbena, which gives its flavor a similar citrus undertone. With a peppery, woodsy taste that resembles marjoram, Mexican oregano has a stronger, more intense flavor that pairs well with Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines. Mexican oregano has at least 3-4% essential oil content, making it naturally more potent than Mediterranean oregano.
Mediterranean oregano comes from a perennial plant in the mint family, Origanum vulgare. This herbaceous plant grows up to 2 feet tall and has small purple flowers.
Mexican oregano comes from a small flowering shrub in the verbena family, Lippia graveolens. This plant grows 3 to 9 feet tall, and typically has either white or yellow flowers.
With both varieties of oregano, the green, leafy part of the plant is harvested before the plant has a chance to flower.
In Greek mythology, oregano is believed to have been created by Aphrodite as a symbol of happiness. As such, it was used in Greek marriage ceremonies for years to express well wishes.
The Romans enjoyed the culinary flavors of oregano, and its ease of cultivation spread it throughout their empire. Oregano was also commonly used for medicinal purposes throughout the Middle Ages and later.
Before World War II, oregano was mainly used for cooking along the Mediterranean and in Mexico. In the Mediterranean, it was traditional to pick the wild herb and use it in local dishes like gyros, doner kebabs, and tomato sauce. To this day, oregano is a cornerstone ingredient in just about any Mediterranean herb blend.
In the United States though, Mediterranean oregano didn’t gain much popularity until after World War II, when soldiers returned home with a newly discovered love of pizza and other Italian-inspired dishes. Since then, with the rising popularity of Mediterranean as well as Mexican food in the US, oregano has become the largest selling herb in America today.
Mediterranean oregano is cultivated in the Mediterranean region, in countries such as Turkey, Italy, Greece, France, Morocco, and Israel. Mexican oregano is cultivated in the Americas, primarily in Mexico.
Oregano’s aroma and flavor is largely affected by its storage conditions. It should always be tightly sealed and stored in a cool, dry, dark place; above ground and away from the wall. When it’s stored properly, dried product will retain its flavor qualities and stay fresh for up to one year or more.
Oregano is a delicious addition to dips and salads and the perfect leafy garnish for soups and tacos. In some parts of the world, it is even used as an herb in teas.
- Mediterranean: This variety is great for sauces, salad dressings, and brushing on meat before grilling. Try Mediterranean oregano on any Mediterranean-inspired dish for an authentic flavor.
- Mexican: This variety is great on chile con carne, mole, burritos, salsa, stews, tacos, and meats. Try Mexican oregano on any Latin-inspired dish for an authentic flavor.
If you are interested in ordering from PSC, contact us about our oregano products.
- PSC Oregano Mediterranean Whole
- PSC Oregano Mediterranean Ground
- PSC Oregano Mexican Ground
- PSC Oregano Mexican Whole
Talk to your sales rep today and we’ll be happy to fill your order!