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Sweet, Sweet Marjoram

December 9, 2016 Back to Picks >

Sweet marjoram is the “sleeper” of the culinary herb garden. It grows quietly among the other herbs, not drawing attention to itself, only to reach the kitchen and blow away the competition. It has a mild, sweet flavor that cooks prefer to the more commonly used oregano. If you grow and cook with herbs, you should definitely have this in your garden.

Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) is a tender perennial herb native to the Mediterranean. It grows reliably in Zones 9 to 11 but will survive in cooler regions if given winter protection. This herb produces a dense cluster of stems 1 to 2 feet high. Sweet smelling clusters of tiny white flowers appear in summer.

Sweet marjoram is sometimes confused with oregano (Origanum vulgare), which is a different species altogether and less flavorful in the kitchen. Sweet marjoram has broad, almost heart-shaped leaves that are relatively smooth. Oregano leaves are narrower and lance shaped, with a somewhat downy appearance. Sweet marjoram will grow in full sun to part shade. Position it near the front of your garden bed in an area with good drainage. Place plants about 12 inches apart. Because sweet marjoram is a tender herb, plant it where it will be sheltered from harsh winds. It will also benefit from nearby warmth radiated from stone or brick walls.

Sweet marjoram can be harvested fresh anytime during the growing season. With garden shears, trim stems down to about 6 inches. The leaves dry quickly and retain their flavor well if kept in an airtight container.