Oregano

Origanum vulgare

 

Oregano is used as both a culinary and a medicinal herb.  O. vulgare, is generally known as Oregano, while its cousin, O. majorana, is usually called Sweet Marjoram, and the two are similar in scent.  Greek Oregano, popular in many dishes, is a subspecies of common Oregano, O. vulgare hirtum.  The dried leaves of oregano are commonly used in many folk remedies, which have not been tested for efficacy at this time.  However, the essential oil is a powerful anti-microbial, and has even been tested and used at K-State to sterilize plant cell cultures in tissue-culture experiments.  In these trials, oregano oil was as strong as the chlorine bleach.

 

Family: Labiatae
Life cycle: perennial; herbaceous/slightly woody (Zones 4-9)
Native: 
Oregano is native to the Mediterranean regions of the world.  It enjoys a hot, but not too wet, climate.  Is common throughout Asia, Europe, and northern Africa, and cultivated in gardens in N. America.
Height:
6” - 24”
Sun: 
Full sun preferred, tolerates partial shade.
Soil: 
Well drained is ideal, does not require fertile soil, but will respond well to additions of compost or mulch.
Water:  
Low to moderate water requirement.
Flowers: 
Small lavender flowers, throughout the summer months.  Plant tends to be more leafy prior to flowering, and again in the fall, after main flowering season.
Propagation:  Stratify seeds for 1 week and then sow indoors, for germination near 70%. Seeds take 1 to 2 weeks to sprout.  Transplant outside once spring weather has settled.  Can also propagate through stem/tip cuttings.  Space 12” in the row.  Plant will bush up, and spread slightly, but not rampant spreader like mints.
Pests: 
No major pests noted in field plots or in the literature about Oregano.
Harvesting:  Clip above ground portion prior to full flower.  Could be mechanized?
Parts used: 
Above ground portion, leaves, before or during flowering, and the oil obtained through steam distillation of above ground parts.
Used as: 
Leaves used as infusions (teas), gargles, and bath additives.  Essential oil for external use only.
Medicinal Benefits:  A strong medicinal food, recommended during winter illnesses and to support healthy digestive system function.  Un-proven folk medicine includes use for respiratory disorders, coughs, inflammation of the bronchial mucous membranes, and as an expectorant.  In China, used for colds, fever, vomiting, dysentery, jaundice and malnutrition for children.  Oil is strongly antiseptic for skin concerns.
Market Potential:  
Medium, competitive.  Prices range from $3.83 - 25.42 per lb dw for tops/herb.

 

KSU Field Trial Data - 2000-2002.  

OREGANO

 

 

 

 

 

 

1st Year

2nd Year

3rd Year

Average

Comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

Location/Years

1

1

0

 

 

Survival (%)

100.0

100.0

--

100.0

 

Vigor (rating)

4.1

5.0

--

4.6

 

Height (cm)

44.0

61.0

--

52.5

 

DW Herb (g/plant)

47.8

134.0

--

 

 

DW Root (g/plant)

29.9

46.0

--

 

 

Maturity (rating)

1.8

5.0

--

3.4

 

Insect (rating)

0.0

0.0

--

0.0

 

Disease (rating)

0.0

0.0

--

0.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Est. planting density

21,780

21,780

 

 

 

Plant density x survival.

21,780

21,780

 

 

 

kg/acre DW (g/plant x # of plants - tops)

1041

2919

 

 

 

Est. Marketable Yld

(DW lb/acre tops)

2293

6428

 

 

 

Yld x ˝ of “low” price

$4403

$12,342

 

 

 

Yld x ˝ of “high” price

$29,144

$81,700

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of field trial data:   We only had this plant at one location (Wichita), and in fact, the plot was not even replicated, so the data presented is observational based on 5 plants from this plot.  However, we felt that it was worth including here, as the results were very positive (more than 3 tons dw per acre estimated in the second year of growth), and the potential for growth of the market for this plant is there.  Traditionally, tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil was the main antiseptic recommended for skin disorders, but recent research, including research at KSU shows that oregano oil is just as effective.  For this market to be available to Kansas growers however, we would need to have access to a steam distillation plant, within driving distance of the oregano fields (1/2 day drive).  There are small distillation units available for test batches, but no commercial units that I’m aware of at this time.  The other positive attribute with oregano is that it is a culinary herb, so a grower may be able to sell to a local or regional market, though quantities may be limited, and competition from international markets may undercut the price.  Since this is an above ground herb, mechanization may be possible. 

Observations in the field is that this is a vigorous plant under Kansas’ hot, windy conditions, with few pests or diseases.  There was no mortality of the 5 plants in our observation plant, and the plants continued to spread into the 2nd (and now 3rd) year of growth.