After the heirloom seeds (Origanum majorana) I planted started to grow, I immediately discovered that sweet marjoram is a very easy herb to cultivate. It sprouts quickly and is very resistant to dry soil. It doesn’t easily wither like other herbs when I would forget to keep up with the watering for a few days.
Sweet marjoram grows bountifully. Growing it will make you feel like an ace gardener even if you are a novice! The leaves are small, spherical, and woolly in appearance. The grey-green leaves grow opposite each other as you can see in the image above which compares to other popular culinary herbs.
Delicate white or pink flowers bloom where the stems meet when the plant is fully mature. When the flowers are just buds, they look like knots, which explains why a commonly used name for this herb is knotted marjoram. Sweet marjoram should be picked immediately after it begins to blossom. It can be consumed either fresh or dried.
Marjoram is sensitive to cold and is ideal for growing in warmer climates as you can cut it back in the Fall and get regrowth in the Spring provided the winter wasn’t too cold with overly thick frost. It does require some sun, preferably around 5 hours per day so it really grew well in my garden window which gets only morning sun.
Sweet Marjoram for Cooking
Sweet marjoram’s taste is similar to oregano. Be careful not to confuse it with this herbal cousin even though it is sometimes referred to as “wild marjoram”.
Excluding the roots, all parts of sweet marjoram are edible including the leaves, soft stems, buds, and flowers.
This distinctive smelling herb when mature has a sugary aroma and essence. It is best used as a savory spice in cooking, however, never sweet ones despite its name!
Marjoram is excellent for seasoning stews and meat dishes of all kinds but can also be used for veggie and egg dishes.
Other Uses for Marjoram
Although I’m not a soap maker, I’ve been told that marjoram lends a wonderful scent to soaps and other artisanal personal care products. It holds its scent when dried better than many other herbs.
Drying herbs is a very simple process. This article using basil as an example describes the step by step process.
The Herb of Happiness
Historically, majoram is known as the herb of happiness in Greek and Rome lore. Newlyweds in these ancient cultures wore garlands of majoram on their heads as a symbol of love and happiness. Marjoram growing on a grave was thought to symbolize that the departed would enjoy a pleasant afterlife.
Uses in Herbal Medicine
Marjoram has been used traditionally in herbal medicine. It was known primarily as a remedy for water retention (edema). In addition, it has a reputation for relieving inflammation and pain when taken as a therapeutic tea. This is not surprising given that sweet marjoram along with the wild version (oregano) have been noted by the USDA to have some of the highest antioxidant properties of all culinary herbs (1).
*Marjoram is contraindicated for use during pregnancy as it has a tendency to induce menstruation.
The essential oil of marjoram is used in aromotherapy for the following purposes:
If you’ve never grown herbs before and want to start, marjoram is a good one to try first. Easy to grow, delicious to eat, and highly antioxidant to boot. What more could you want? Sweet marjoram may just confer some happiness to your gardening endeavors!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist