Botanical name: Origanum majorana Family: Lamiaceae (Mint family)
Synonyms: Majorana hortensis, Majorana fragrans, Thymus majorana
Marjoram is a bushy half-hardy perennial herb that is often cultivated as an annual. It is about 1-2 ft tall with descending, multi-branched stems that spill over to create a mound. Since the stems take root where they touch the soil, the mound gradually increases in diameter. If grown in a hanging basket, the stems form a a cascade of attractive gray-green foliage. Marjoram's oval leaves are soft and fuzzy, because of short fine hairs. They are opposite each other on a square stem. Leaves get up to 2.5 cm long and have a wonderful, very distinctive, perfumy fragrance when bruised. The flowers are tiny, less than 3 mm long and arranged in burrlike heads 1.3 cm long. Sweet marjoram is native to North Africa, Turkey and SW Asia, extensively cultivated in India. Dried marjoram is extremely important in industrial food processing and is much used, together with thyme, in spice mixtures for the production of sausages; in Germany, where a great variety of sausages is produced, it is thus called Wurstkraut "sausage herb". Furthermore, application of marjoram to boiled or fried liver is somewhat classical. Marjoram may be effectively combined with bay leaves; furthermore, it goes well with small amounts of black pepper or juniper. Marjoram is native to SW Asia, but widely cultivated throughout Europe, N Africa and the rest of Asia.
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