Marjoram is a shrub-like herb that looks very similar to oregano, so similar in fact, that the two are often mistaken for each other. Marjoram grows like a small shrub, or “subshrub,” with multi-branched stems growing up to three feet in height. Marjoram has light green, slightly oval-shaped leaves, growing in pairs along its tender stems. The leaves tend to be more round and elliptical than those of oregano, with the same fuzzy texture. Marjoram has a sweet flavor, the source of which is a natural chemical called Sabinene hydrate. The sweetness is mixed with hints of pine and citrus. Marjoram doesn’t have as strong an aroma or flavor as oregano, and is a bit more versatile. Small white flowers bloom at the top of the stems, in spikes (or bracts) that have a similar appearance to hops. The ideal harvest time is just before the flowers bloom, when the amount of essential oils is at its peak.
This herb has a lot of different uses; it can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. The leaves are removed from the stem prior to use. Marjoram is most often associated with flavoring poultry stuffings or sausages. Use Marjoram in marinades for either meat, fish and poultry or vegetables. The herb pairs well with vegetables and like its oregano cousin, tomato-based sauces and soups. It compliments other herbs like thyme, tarragon, parsley and basil. Where Marjoram takes a giant departure from the typical Origanum variety, is when it is used in sweet applications. Marjoram can be used to flavor custards, ice cream, pies, tarts and other desserts with fruit; it pairs well with melons, apples, and tropical fruits. Fresh Marjoram may be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Dry Marjoram on screens or hung upside down in bunches tied with twine. The dried herb will keep for up to six months when stored in an airtight container.