Marjoram - Origanum majorana

Marjoram - Origanum majorana

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Marjoram is a herbaceous, perennial, bushy plant, native to the north-western African and Central Asian areas. This plant belongs to the Lamiaceae family and is also known as Origanum majorana or Majorana hortensis. As for the stem of our marjoram, this appears erect, quadrangular, reddish in color and with a maximum height of 1 meter. The plant is covered with a thick hair. The leaves have a rather small size, an oval shape, smooth edges and a short petiole. The down covers them completely giving it a soft and velvety appearance. During the winter the marjoram completely loses its leaves. The flowers are pinkish white, gathered in spikes and have the peculiar characteristics of being hermaphroditic. Bloom from June to September. Speaking of the fruit of the origanum majorana, this one has a rather sorry coloring and an oval shape.

Cultivation techniques

Origanum majorana is grown in Europe as an annual plant although it is a perennial species. This is because it is a species that absolutely does not tolerate cold temperatures and for this reason, it is cultivated as a perennial only in the places of origin. To grow at its best it needs exposure to full sun, where temperatures are mild and the air rather warm. If these weather conditions subsist, the aroma of marjoram will also be more intense. To best cultivate the plant, the soil must be dry. It also does not need frequent watering but limited irrigation that does not cause stagnation in the soil. The plant needs more watering only in its initial growth phase.

Family, genus, species Lamiaceae, origanum majorana
Type of plant Perennial herbaceous (also cultivated as an annual), lively, aromatic
leaves Greens, deciduous
Habit bushy
Height From 30 60 cm
density 6-9 per m2
Cultivation Simple
Water needs Low
Growth Average
Propagation Seed, cutting, division
Rusticitа From medium to slightly rustic
Exposure Sun
Ground Sandy, rocky or poor
pH From sub-alkaline to sub-acid
Soil humidity Well drained
Use Aromatic corner, vegetable garden, vase
Ideal climate Mediterranean


Marjoram reproduction occurs by seed, cutting or division of the plant.
The first technique consists in placing the seeds of the plant in a seedbed or pot with fertile soil at the beginning of the spring season. The seed container should be kept in a shaded area with a temperature of 10 to 13 ° C. It is advisable to keep the soil constantly moist until the first shoot of the plant appears from the ground. Once the seedlings have sprouted, it will be possible to move them to a brighter area to allow them better growth.
Reproduction by cuttings is carried out in June. The cuttings of the plant must be 8-10 cm long and planted in a compound made of sand and peat. The ideal room temperature must be around 10 ° C.
If you want to multiply the species through the technique of plant division it will be necessary to wait for the month of March or October.

Use in the kitchen

Thanks to the particular aroma of marjoram, the plant is often used in the kitchen to flavor dishes. The scent is very similar to that of oregano but the taste is much more sought after. It is used to make fish, vegetable and soup based dishes.
Another use of the origanum majorana is to prepare tea and herbal tea.

History of Marjoram

Marjoram is already known and used in ancient times by all the peoples of the Mediterranean basin. The first written records of its use come from the Greeks: they particularly appreciated its tonic and aperitif virtues. He also entered to be part of ointments to fight rheumatic pains, along with thyme, sage, basil and honey.
Recent analyzes have also found that the essential oils of marjoram were used by the Egyptians for embalming practices, probably for their antiseptic virtues.
These characteristics made it popular also during the Middle Ages, especially in the herbalist's shops linked to convents: it was traditionally combined with thyme, in particular in syrups with sedative and expectorant action.
Marjoram is also a symbol of happiness and well-being and in ancient times was associated with the cult of Venus. It was customary to adorn the windows of the girls with bunches, to bring them happiness and love.


In autumn the branches are cut leaving about 10 cm from the base. The best time to harvest the branches of marjoram is the one before flowering, that is April-May. In September October you can pick up the leaves to be dried.

Crop care

Marjoram cultivation is very simple because it is an undemanding plant.
In full earth the irrigations are almost always superfluous, except for the first times from the planting. Let us remember that the dryness of the soil does not frighten it and instead it is easier to cause radical rot with too frequent interventions (especially in potted specimens).
To favor its expansion it is important to keep the area free from weeds and the soft ground: periodic weeding is therefore to be advised.
At the beginning of the vegetative period we cut all the stems to a few cm from the ground to favor the recovery and the creation of new jets.

Pot cultivation

To obtain good results it is essential to take care of the drainage (based on gravel) and always make sure that the substrate is dry in depth before distributing water. The ideal compote is obtained by mixing 1/3 of garden soil, 1/3 of river sand and 1/3 of compost or mature manure. We use pots at least 25 cm in diameter for as many in depth, possibly in terracotta (to promote transpiration).

Climate for marjoram

Marjoram is able to withstand a few degrees below zero, especially if the soil is well drained and the area is not very humid. In the Center-North it is advisable to cultivate in pots in order to be able to collect the specimens in a cold greenhouse, around mid-November. In the Center-South and on the coasts it is instead possible to keep it from perennial in full ground, especially if we can insert it in a position to the South. A valid help can come to us from a thick mulch based on material of collapse.

Harvest and preservation of marjoram

The collection can be carried out at any time, from May to late October. The best time is early in the morning when the leaves are not stressed by heat. The maximum aroma is obtained by removing the tips with the heads still closed.
Immediate consumption is always recommended, but if we want to keep part of the leaves for the cold season we will have to dry them as quickly as possible (in a shady but ventilated area or by using special electric dryers). They will be kept in airtight jars, possibly in the dark.

Marjoram in the kitchen

Marjoram is a traditional aroma of many Italian recipes, particularly in coastal areas.
This herb is very similar to oregano, but in virtue of its more delicate taste it goes better with vegetables, meats and cheeses. The ideal is to always insert it towards the end of cooking: we will avoid that heat can ruin its organoleptic qualities.
The pairings with walnuts, rabbit and vegetable omelettes are classic.
It is also used, together with other essences, for making alcoholic distillates.

Marjoram as a medicinal herb

Modern phytotherapy means marjoram as a sweet remedy for different diseases: lack of appetite, respiratory problems, difficult digestion, intestinal and joint pains. It also provides relief in the case of toothache and is a mild sedative.
The various formulations for oral use are used in calming muscle, joint or menstrual cycle pains. They also act as a sedative and can therefore be tried by anxious people.
Through inhalation they are invaluable for promoting the dissolution of mucus and its expulsion.
As an external use it is effective for fighting mouth ulcers, gingivitis and infections of the mouth: in fact it enters the formulation of many mouthwashes to make rinses and gargles.
The essential oil can be used for massages: useful to calm pains and to treat minor excoriations or sores.
The leaves, for the preparation of wraps and decoctions, are collected early in the morning, dried and reduced to powder. The essential oil is obtained instead by distillation with flowered tips.

Marjoram - Origanum majorana: Active ingredients and dosage

The most important active ingredients are flavonoids, ursolic, phenic and oleanolic acids.
For the preparation of an herbal tea, infuse 6 grams of dried leaves for every liter of water for 10 minutes.
The mother tincture is used in the measure of 20 drops per glass of water.
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plant April-June
Flowering June August
Collection From June to October
Pruning April-June
Winter retreat (in the North and mountain areas) November to April