A delightful culinary herb belonging to the Lamiaceae family, along with its more renowned cousin, oregano.
There are three main varieties of marjoram that are of interest to the cook. Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana), pot marjoram (O. onites) and winter marjoram (O. heraclesticum). The most readily available and commonly used variety is sweet marjoram.
Marjoram is a small perennial shrub, growing to a height of 40 cm (15 in), with dense foliage consisting of small oval shaped leaves, around 3 cm long. It bears tiny white flowers similar to the very closely related oregano. The plant is native to the Mediterranean and has been an important culinary and medicinal herb in the region for thousands of years.
The flavour of marjoram is slightly more delicate than oregano, with subtle camphor overtones that have a tasty floral nature. Used fresh, it has a wonderful affinity with subtle tastes, such as seafood, poultry and eggs. Fresh marjoram strewn through an omelette is a sensational match.
Marjoram has the ability to dry very well and actually increases in flavour once dried. Dried marjoram is a common ingredient in stuffings for poultry and marries well to lighter tasting meat dishes, such as pork and veal.