The Arbor Gate’s monthly ‘Herb Picks’ for 2014 honor the memory of Madalene Hill and celebrate her pioneering work in bringing herbs to all the gardeners of the Gulf South (and beyond). Each month’s herb is closely associated with Madalene.
February 2014 marks the fifth anniversary of the dedication of the Madalene Hill Herb Garden at The Arbor Gate.
She was our teacher, mentor, and friend.
An unusual strain of origanum x majoricum, this terrific culinary herb was first given to Madalene by a visitor from California many years ago. Though it closely resembles sweet marjoram, the sturdy perennial possesses a flavor more subtle and complex than either ordinary marjoram or any of the more commonly used culinary oreganos.
Easy to grow, Hilltop Oregano responds readily with fresh new stems and leaves when cut back hard, even during hot months. Madalene christened this particular oregano ‘Hilltop’ in honor of her well-known and much-loved Hilltop Herb Farm, which was located near Cleveland, Texas. It is totally winter-hardy in our area.
Although early colonists used oregano leaves in their tea, this herb, now familiar in America, wasn’t incorporated into American cooking until soldiers brought it home following WWII. Its pungent flavor makes it a natural partner with tomato sauces, garlic, onions, and other components of Mediterranean cuisine.
Whether planted in the ground or in a large pot, Hilltop Oregano is a lovely addition to the garden. In a pot one plant will eventually spill over into a beautiful evergreen bouquet. It was the only oregano used for cooking by Madalene and Gwen at Festival Hill because of its mild and complex flavor, as compared to many other stronger-flavored oregano varieties.