Thursday, 27 October 2011

ABC Wednesday O is for Oak and Oregano

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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  1. Is it weird that I have rosemary, oregano, basil, and sweet mint growing in the backyard just so I can smell it and not actually use it for cooking?

  2. Aye - don't you love Nature's harvest! I LOVE Autumn.
    Thanks so much
    Denise ABC Team

  3. Wonderful choices for O day, Janice. I love them both, especially oregano, which is, of course, an annual in our bitter climate here.

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  4. We don't have many oak trees here around, but oregano I use a lot for cooking ! I also put it in tomatoe sauce.

  5. Hi Janice .. love the orange beak of the blackbird - they are amazing to see. Great photos and info - there's an abundance of berries and acorns - does that presage a cold winter - I do hope not!

    Cheers Hilary

  6. I went to the allergist yesterday, and discovered I'm allergic to all sorts of trees and plants. I think oak was one! Yeesh.
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  7. Wow! I'm not sure I've ever seen that many acorns under one tree. For sure the squirrels are happy.

  8. Pretty shots of the Oak and Oregano Janice. I am back home for a while and have enjoyed catching up.

  9. Acorns are such a pretty nut, nice to remember the green of summer from your first photo.

  10. Impressive! Oregano is one of my favorite tastes!

  11. That is a lot of acorns! I have been hearing people talking about all the acorns this year and how that means we are going to have a hard winter. I tend to think it is a cycle of the oak trees.

    The wood pigeon looks a lot like the mourning doves in my backyard. I suppose they are closely related.

  12. A very culinary post this is. I made pizza, liberally sprinkled with oregano yesterday. And our pigs love acorns. They know exactly where the few Oak trees in our garden are.

    (have you noticed that the advertisement in your left sidebar covers part of your post?)

  13. @Joshua - not weird at all. For years the only herb I grew to use was mint. I simply enjoyed the rosemary, thyme, bay, oregano for their scent.
    @Denise - yes, autumn is bountiful:-)
    @Kay - enjoy it while you may. Do you freeze or dry oregano for winter use?
    @Gattina - oregano is great with tomatoes:-)
    @Hilary - I think - I hope - those are old wives' tales. Our shrubs are groaning with berries!
    @Roger - oh dear, bad luck.
    @Roan - happy and fat, I think;-)
    @Denise - welcome home and thank you:-)
    @Joy - it's getting hard to remember those fresh greens of spring;-)
    @Mary - yes, I love oregano, too.
    @SquirrelQueen -
    @Carolina - yes, I had noticed and now I've removed it. I've no power over what is advertised, either, so
    I think I'll do without advertising for now:-)

  14. Nothing like cooking with fresh herbs!

  15. @Meryl - too true:-)
    @Jo - glad you enjoyed it.

  16. What fun to see this since I posted that story about my granddaughter desperately searching for an acorn. Funny that in certain parts of Illinois the squirrels didn't have much to eat and in other parts the trees really bore a lot of nuts. I see that you have a whole lot of it. I love the new look of your blog. Wonderful fall!


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