Blackbird in summer oak tree
There are many oaks (Quercus) growing in our neighbourhood – one of our local primary schools is called Oaklands and the name of its accompanying nursery school is Acorns.
Wood pigeon in spring oak tree
The acorn harvest has been remarkable this year and the squirrels will not go hungry. A year of abundant harvest is called a mast year. From late August acorns begin to rain from the trees, hitting shed and summer house roofs and any other hard surface with a resounding clatter. The resulting litter of nuts begin to germinate, seeking any crevice in which they may root. Our garden hosts many saplings each year – sometimes they have been buried by squirrels or jays as part of a winter cache.
Oregano coming to the end of its useful life. Already the leaves are dying back.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a perennial herb closely related to Marjoram (Origanum majorana or sweet marjoram) and is sometimes known as wild marjoram. Its name means ‘mountain joy’ from the Greek ‘oros’ for mountain and ‘ganos’ for joy or happiness. In the Mediterranean it grows all year round but in our temperate climate it is perennial, dying away after the first frosts in winter to emerge with fresh growth in spring. It belongs to the Mint family (Lamiaceae) and has a stronger, more robust flavour than marjoram.
Oregano is used widely in cooking and its pungency is particularly good with tomatoes, aubergine and lamb. It is best added towards the end of cooking so that its piquancy is retained. It is often sprinkled liberally over pizza and gives added zest to fresh salads.
When left to flower it produces spikes of pretty pink or white flowers in July which attract insects. Once the flowers have set seed the taste of the leaves becomes more bitter. To avoid this the flower heads can be removed – this lengthens the growing season to late October/early November.
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