Saturday, October 30, 2010

Knotted Marjorum, Origanum marjorana

Knotted Marjoram, Origanum majorana

A day for knots on this Victoria Derby Day, with the 'fashionistas' recommending a classic knotted hairstyle, the chignon, for the ladies to wear on this premier race day of the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne.
Knotted Marjoram gets its name because the flowers appear like round close heads or knots. These knots are single or in groups of several and stand on their own stems, which rise from the leaf axils along the stems, and at the tips of the stems too. Each knot is four-sided and made up of tiny sepal like leaves, each folded over the next like a shutter. From each 'leaf' of the shutter comes tiny white flowers, a few at a time. My marjoram is just starting to flower and is at its aromatic best. The scent is variously described as being reminiscent of pine, heliotrope, nutmeg, mint and camphor.
Though normally associated with European cooking, especially as an additive to meat stuffing mixtures and sausage meat such as wurstkraut in Germany, as well as part of the classic
bouquet garni with bay leaves, parsley ,thyme, Marjoram is actually indigenous to North Africa, the Middle East and India. In India it is regarded as sacred to Vishnu and Siva though I have never heard of it being used in cooking there.

Marjoram flowers

Marjoram is killed by frost in cold climates and is usually grown from seed sown in spring. I usually get a couple of years out of a plant before it becomes a bit woody and unproductive.It is useful to grown near a path as the texture of the leaves is soft and velvety and the delightful scent is released when you brush past it.
It is a plant I can't live without ,though it still remains less well known than its more robust cousin Oregano (Origanum vulgare) and is yet to make an appearance on the greengrocer shelf with other fresh herbs.

Marjoram from Tacuinum Sanitatum c. 1385

Marjoram from an English Manuscript dated 1100

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