The Happiness Herb

From pizzas to tomato-based spaghettis, flavoured meat to soups, oregano is a staple in Italian kitchens and a regular feature in Mexican and Mediterranean food. In ancient times, oregano was a symbol of joy and happiness for the Greeks and Romans, which should come as no surprise since this aromatic herb infuses warm, balsamic flavours into any dish and releases a refreshing scent that enhances a feeling of well-being.

While this humble herb of happiness is universally regarded as a powerful flavour enhancer, its health properties tend to be relegated to the background — until now, that is! Here are some insights about oregano and how it can benefit your health

Antioxidant Activity 

Oregano contains numerous phytonutrients, which function as antioxidants. Several research tests  show that oregano has demonstrated much stronger antioxidant capacity compared to several synthetic antioxidants that are usually added to processed foods. What’s even more amazing is that this herb contains 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries!

 

Antibacterial 

Some of the volatile oil contained in this herb is known to have inhibited the growth of bacteria. In Mexico, experts have found oregano more effective in treating infection caused by the amoeba Giardia Lamblia compared to tinidazol, which is a prescription drug.

 

Others 

The oil of the herb possesses carminative, diuretic and diaphoretic properties. It is given as a stimulant and tonic to ease colic and diarrhoea. Oregano essential oil is also good for people who suffer from chronic rheumatism, toothaches, earaches, whooping cough and bronchitis. It is often added in hair shampoos and oils to stimulate hair growth as well as antiseptic creams and healing lotions to heal wounds.

Rich in Nutrients

Oregano is a very good source of fibre as it helps bind bile salts and cancer causing toxins in the colon, repelling them out of the body. It even contains Vitamin K, iron and manganese.

Buying and Storing

Fresh oregano has fresh looking leaves that are rich green in colour while the stems are firm.

There are several ways to store your fresh oregano, such as keeping it frozen or stored in airtight containers.

The first and most basic step for storage is washing and drying the oregano sprigs by tying it in a bunch. Hang it to cool in a dark place with good ventilation until it dries. Then seal it tightly and store away from sunlight. You can also keep it in the refrigerator, wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel.

Another alternative would be stripping the leaves from the stems and placing them loosely in a plastic bag with all the air removed.

Another interesting option is to freeze the chopped leaves in ice cube trays covered with either water or stock. Once the water or stock is frozen, pop the cubes into a plastic bag and seal tightly. The cubes can be taken out straight from the freezer and added into soup or stews

Cooking With Oregano 

Oregano is often used for flavouring barbeque sauce, egg and cheese dishes, salads and salad dressings, stuffings. It is also used extensively to season meat like pork, lamb, fish and chicken. Oregano goes exceptionally well with almost any tomato dish, which is why it is often used to cook up tomato-based spaghettis.

Its strong balsamic and aromatic fragrance helps compliment meat and vegetables dishes when combined with dominant flavours such as chilli, zucchini, eggplants, broccoli and cauliflower. Always add oregano into your pot only at the end of your cooking process because heat can easily cause it to lose its delicate flavour.

Fresh oregano goes amazingly well with garlic bread. All you need to do is sprinkle some chopped leaves on top of each slice. For more flavourful cooking, add a few sprigs of fresh oregano to your bottle of olive oil. This gives the olive oil the essence of the herb.

However, do bear in mind that there can be too much of a good thing! Due to its strong flavour, too much oregano can become overpowering and bitter.

Important Tips

  • Dried oregano should be kept in a tightly-sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place and used within six months.
  • Oregano is a good source of calcium, magnesium, Vitamins A and C and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Crush dried oregano on your palm to release the essential oils before adding it to your dish.

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