Called the “herb of happiness,” Origanum majorana, commonly known as sweet marjoram or knotted marjoram, is an herbal symbol of peace and well-being. Marjoram is grown as an annual in the colder parts of the world but is perennial in warmer regions. To keep it growing as a perennial, bring it indoors for the winter. Marjoram may be grown as a houseplant and as it has a tendency to trail when grown indoors, it makes a nice hanging basket. Marjoram has small, grey-green, oval-shaped leaves that are velvety to the touch. Tiny white or pink flowers, reddish stems, and the grey-green colour of the leaves make marjoram an attractive border plant.
Marjoram grows 10 – 24 inches (25 – 60 cm) tall. Cultivation requirements: does best in full sun (will tolerate slight shade); well-drained soil; no fertilizer; water soil sparingly but do not let dry out; pinch back the tips or harvest sprigs to use in cooking to keep it bushy and productive.
Marjoram is easily grown from seed or cuttings. For spring planting, start seed indoors 6 – 8 weeks before your last frost date. Keep the soil moist during germination. After germination, move the seedlings into a sunny position, and transplant into the garden after all danger of frost has passed. If you are bringing marjoram plants in-doors for over-wintering, pot up in fresh potting soil. Check for critters and if your plants are infected, spray with a soap and water spray.
Marjoram requires at least 5 hours of sunlight a day. If you are growing marjoram on a windowsill, turn frequently to ensure all sides receive light. Marjoram can be grown under fluorescent lights. Hang the lights 6 inches (15 cm) from the plants and leave on for 14 hours a day.
In the garden, marjoram entices bees and butterflies for maximum nectar production and pollination. It is a good companion plant for all vegetables especially beets, eggplant, pumpkin, onions, and zucchini as it aids in their growth and fights off insects. Grow marjoram in pots in the garden as well as in the soil. In the kitchen, use in tomato dishes, onions, dairy, eggs, potato salad, soups, mushrooms, brussel sprouts, oil dressings for salads, carrots, and cauliflower. Fresh leaves and young shoots can be added to salads. It is a major ingredient, usually dried, in sausages, poultry seasonings, Italian recipes, or stuffings. Sprinkle fresh or dried marjoram on pizza. Sprinkle finely chopped fresh leaves on meat or fish before roasting, grilling, or baking. A tea can be made with marjoram to treat colds, headaches, and stomach upsets. Add 3 teaspoons (15 mL) fresh marjoram to 1 cup (250 mL) boiling water. Let steep, then drink slowly. Use marjoram sparingly as it is deceptively potent. Add during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Marjoram will keep several days in the refrigerator. The leaves can be harvested as soon as the plant starts blooming. The leaves dry easily and can also be frozen. Many cooks prefer marjoram rather than oregano (closely related), as marjoram is much less pungent. To make potpourri, dry leaves whole and then crush to release the scent.