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Meet oregano, a robust herb with a peppery bite and a sweet, almost minty aroma. It stands with red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese as one of the world’s favourite “shake-on” pizza toppings. But look beyond pizza, and you’ll find that oregano brings a world of flavour to a wide variety of foods. An assertive cousin to marjoram, oregano livens up classic Italian tomato sauce, Greek meats and fish dishes. We love it as a zippy counterpoint to cooked and raw vegetables. Your nose will tell you if your bottle of oregano is fresh. One whiff should transport you to your imaginary Italian grandmother’s kitchen. Buon appetito!
Q: If I don’t have oregano on hand, what makes a good substitute?
A: The Mediterranean clan of herbs offers several good substitutes for oregano. Marjoram, a relative in the mint family, is perhaps the closest match. Oregano is a bit more pungent, but both share an herby, peppery flavour and aroma. Thyme and basil will also work well. You can substitute an equal measure of any of these herbs for the other. Fresh oregano is also a possibility. One tablespoon of chopped fresh herb equals one teaspoon of dried. Mexican oregano? Not a match. It’s related to lemon verbena and brings citrus and anise flavours that might change the character of your dish.
In the Greek language, the word oregano means “joy of the mountain” and it was said to be a favourite of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.