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Is Oregano An Herb or a Spice?

Oregano is a Mediterranean spice that masquerades as a herb. The name oregano is derived from the Greek words oros, for "mountain," and ganos, for "joy" or "splendour."

According to legend, the Greek goddess Aphrodite created aromatic oregano as a symbol of joy and grew it in her garden on Mount Olympus. Both fresh and dried oregano can be used to create different dishes. Oregano is widely used in Italian cuisine, as it comes handy in preparing tomato sauces, fried vegetables and grilled meat.

Tips for buying and storing oregano

Chef Krishna Khetle says, "Dry oregano is an important culinary herb. While buying it, make sure it's aromatic, and slightly bitter in taste. Fresh oregano branches should be bright green in colour and should not be limp." He adds, "To store fresh oregano, place a slightly damp paper towel in the bag with the oregano and leave some air in the bag, it may extend the life up to a week. You may also extend the shelf life of fresh oregano by storing whole stems with leaves in a glass of water with a plastic bag loosely tented over the glass."

If you have some leftover, you can also tie sprigs into a bunch and hang in a cool, dark place with good ventilation. Once dried, seal tightly and store away from sunlight.

Chef Nithya Rozaria adds, "While buying dry oregano first crush some leaves in your hand, and if you get the pungent flavour, then go ahead and buy it. The dry leaves must not be brown but a greenish colour. It should be leafy and not powdery. Fresh oregano leaves have a spicy and pungent smell. The leaves are vertically opposite to each other and are pale green in colour."

Head Chef Nirmal Monterio concludes, "Oregano is a flavoursome herb. Pizza, pasta and even soups need a pinch of it. Oregano gives the right punch of flavour to Minestrone soup along with a beautiful aroma and translucent gorgeous colour, making this a delicious soup."

A tea made with oregano is generally consumed to help with loss of appetite, nervousness, indigestion, bloating, flatulence, coughs, urinary problems, bronchial problems, headaches, swollen glands, and to promote menstruation.

Oregano can heal
One of the ancient Greek names for oregano was panakes or "all heal". So, it's not surprising that this culinary herb is believed to have medicinal properties. Studies show that oregano is highly antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti fungal and antiviral. It also contains at least seven compounds that can lower blood pressure.

Other benefits of using Oregano are:-
It's helpful in the case of digestion, flu, constipation, rashes, aching joints and muscles, warts and athlete's foot.

It's also used in the case of eczema, flu, headaches, toothache, ear infection, fevers, allergies, burns, bleeding, fatigue, arthritis, sprains, back pain, colds, gastrointestinal problems / diarrhoea and E coli.

When sprayed, oregano cleans the air, kills fleas, and bugs on plants.

Minestrone soup

By Chef Nirmal Monterio
- Whole tomatoes: 1 cup
- Can of beans: 1 can
- Chopped onions: 1 cup
- Cloves and garlic: 3 cloves, one chopped garlic
- Zucchini (cut in half leghthwise and then sliced): 2
- Bell pepper: 1
- Potato (peeled and cubed): 1
- Can corn (drained): 1
- Small carrot (sliced): 1
- Oregano: 1 tsp
- Basil: 1 tsp
- Dried parsley: 1 tbsp
- Salt: 1½ tsp
- Pepper: ¼ tsp
- Water: 5 cups
- Ziti or wholegrain pasta: 1 cup
- Oil for sauteing: 1 tbsp

Cut the onion and saute it over medium heat in a little oil in a large soup pot. Covering the pot with a lid helps the onion cook more quickly. While the onion is cooking, cut the bell pepper and garlic, add them to the pot and continue sauteing the vegetables. When the onion and bell pepper are soft, add the garlic, basil, salt, oregano, and pepper. Cook covered over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring often.

Add five cups of water and turn the heat up. Add the sliced zucchini, potatoes and carrots, as well as the corn and beans. After the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook for ten minutes. During this time, add the juice from the tomatoes to the soup pot and either slice the tomatoes on a plate or give them a few whirls in a food processor. Add the tomatoes, the parsley, and the uncooked pasta, and cook until the pasta is ready and the potatoes are tender.


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