Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today: We've been stocking up on fresh herbs to get our spring fix. Next up, marjoram.
Marjoram is like a thumb. (Stay with me here.) Earlier this week, I gave my daughter a preschool level anatomy lesson and explained the names we have for different fingers: thumb, pointer finger, and so on. Then I got cocky and added: “You have one thumb on each hand, and thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs.”
My daughter got a little lost, but because you're not three-and-a-half-years-old, you might already know where I’m going: Marjoram (Origanum majorana) used to belong to its own genus, but now it belongs to the same genus as oregano (Origanum vulgare). This means that all marjoram is now a type of oregano, but just as all fingers are not thumbs, all oregano is not marjoram.
Marjoram looks similar to oregano, which is perhaps not surprising since they are so closely related, but there are differences in flavor. As Deborah Madison explains: “Marjoram’s flavor lacks the oiliness and abrasiveness of oregano. Marjoram is more delicate and floral than oregano. It is sometimes called 'sweet marjoram' and for good reason.” Even if you think you're not familiar with marjoram's flavor, you’ve likely had it in its dried form. Dried marjoram often shows up in herb blends like za’atar and herbs de Provence.
How to store and prep:
Store fresh marjoram in the refrigerator: First wrap it in a damp paper towel or tea towel, and then loosely wrap that bundle in plastic wrap or tuck it inside of an airtight container. When you're ready to cook with your fresh marjoram, separate the leaves from the stems (1, above), and then chop the leaves (2, below) as directed and proceed with your dish.
More: Have you sharpened your knives lately? Here's how to do it any which way.
Start using more marjoram now, but continue to do so as warmer weather arrives, too. We often consider basil, one of marjoram’s relatives in the Mint family, to be the herb of summer, but Deborah Madison pushes us to consider using marjoram in place of basil “with many summer foods, from tomatoes to zucchini to corn.”
Ready to start using more fresh marjoram? Here are 10 of our favorite foods to pair it with:
1. Green Beans
Try: Bean Salad Nicoise or Lemony Green Bean Salad with Feta, Red Onion, and Marjoram
Try: Meg's Marinated Mushrooms or Braised Chicken and Mushroom Ragu with White Curry Spices
Tell us: How do you like to use fresh marjoram?
Photos by Mark Weinberg