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takadi

Mexican vs "regular" European Oregano

25 posts in this topic

I'm making a chili that calls for Mexican oregano. Does Mexican oregano look or taste any different? Or can I just use regular oregano? Of course I want to go authentic if there is a distinct taste to it, but I can't find this stuff anywhere.

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I'm making a chili that calls for Mexican oregano.  Does Mexican oregano look or taste any different? Or can I just use regular oregano? Of course I want to go authentic if there is a distinct taste to it, but I can't find this stuff anywhere.

It's a different plant alogether but they taste somewhat similar. The native has a slight citrus touch and is earthier. I'm sure Penzy's has it and we grow it but if you're making your chili now, go ahead and use what you have on hand.

There actually are many "Mexican oreganos", I've been told. I think Spanish must have called all the green herbs "oregano". But Lippia graveolens is the most common and called for in recipes.


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Although there's a difference in the flavor, unless you're using as large an amount as a half-cup, I don't think you'd notice a substitution in a pot of chili. In subtler recipes, you might.

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I must say, I live in Australia and as a result have little to no access to proper mexican products. I went to great lengths to get mexican oregano and I can tell you that it was almost a waste of time. There is very little difference in flavour... I seriously doubt you would notice the difference between the "normal" oregano you buy from spice shops (not the greek stuff that comes still on the branches) and mexican.

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There's another kind of Mexican oregano that I've never seen for sale anywhere, not even here in Mexico. I have a pot of it in my patio.

It's called orégano orejona--big-eared orégano. The leaves are about 2 inches long or more and about an inch across at the widest point. It's also known as orégano oaxacaqueño. The flavor is even stronger than that of the usual Mexican oregano. One leaf can overpower a dish.

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Edited by esperanza (log)

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I must say, I live in Australia and as a result have little to no access to proper mexican products. I went to great lengths to get mexican oregano and I can tell you that it was almost a waste of time. There is very little difference in flavour... I seriously doubt you would notice the difference between the "normal" oregano you buy from spice shops (not the greek stuff that comes still on the branches) and mexican.

Sorry to disagree and I don't know what your source is or how you used it but it's quite different.


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"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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So is mexican oregano just stronger? Or is the flavor different altogether? Maybe regular oregano with a twist?

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The flavor is similar (hence the application of the name "oregano" to the Mexican herb) but significantly different -- if you have quality ingredients. If you're used to using dusty herbs: yeah, they're the same.


Chris Amirault

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Ah....

Susana Trilling, and American chef based in Oaxaca uses marjoram as a substitute for Oaxacan oregano in her dishes.

The culinary nerd in me makes me reach for my "Diccionario Enciclopedico de Gastronomia mexicana" by Ricardo Munoz Zurita to obtain more information on this important ingredient. I will be doing a rough translation of the entry in this document.

"Oregano

Aromatic herb in the Origanum (Labiadas) and Lippia (Verbenaceas) families in which there exist 4 varieties of edible herbs.

Origanum family:

O majorana L. sometimes called marjoram is a native of North Africa and SE Asia, and domesticated in Europe.

O. onites L., native to Turkey, Syria and SE Europe

O. vulgaris L., native to eastern Europe and central Asia.

Lippia family:

L. berlandieri--native to Coahuila, Veracruz and Oaxaca has a flavor that is akin to Mint.

The fact that there are local varieties of L. berlandieri is the reason many regional dishes are very difficult to authentically reproduce outside of the region. It is employed always in the dried form in adobos, broths and consumes of all types, pozoles, chicken stews, escabeches, pickled onions/chiles and sauces.

In reference to the varieties found in Mexican regional markets, we have many different variations. For example, Yucatecan oregano is a large, dark brown leafed plant native to the Yucatan peninsula. The oregano from the Huasteca veracruzana has a small light green leaf. The oregano from the Mexico City area is a light green leaf. The oregano from South Baja California has small green leaves and a strong and desireable aroma.

Also, in the fields of Southern Baja California, there is a wild oregano with a large light green leaf. It is utilized in fish, menudo and pozole."

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I just got back from Mexico and spent part of my time in the Huasteca region of Hidalgo. It was a really a wild, memorable experience. The drive took hours and most of it was over almost humorously windy roads. The destination was a collective of farmers who are growing their native oregano. They called it Oregano Indio but it's a variety of Oreja de Raton.

IMG_3574.JPG

These people are incredibly strong, proud and poor. We've been selling their oregano at Rancho Gordo and it's glorious. It's less citrusy than the more traditional Mexican oregano and more earthy. It just soars when you mix it with garlic. The farmers started cultivating it when they discovered their foraging was affecting the landscape. Over the years, they've developed their systems, which I didn't quite follow, but I do know it ended with harvesting with the moon's cycles somehow.

IMG_3580.JPG

The farmers were so proud. They have thousands of starts waiting to plant and acres and acres of oregano planted. I love people who are passionate and want to share what they know. I know in San Miguel de Allende there's a huge push to plant lavender and while i think the idea is well-intentioned, why not plant an indigenous oregano?

IMG_3595.JPG

IMG_3600.JPG

After the tour, we all gathered at one of the houses and all of a sudden the entire village was there, about 40 people. They'd prepared a great goat barbacoa and the goat meat has been washed with some maguey liquid that took away the gaminess and added incredible flavor. Beans, quelites, caldo from the goat and later pancita with incredible salsas.

Sitting quietly at one end were three guys who it turns out had just been busted in Arizona. Before they left they told the collective they were nuts and it wasn't going to work. Now they're back, broke and begging to work for one of the growers. The leader wisely said no, but agreed to give them 1,200 plant starts so they could start their own. I obviously don't want to go into politics but I will say the root of the problem is these men want and need to work in Mexico. Whether this is just the responsibility of only the Mexican government or if our trade policies contribute to their destitution is up to you to decide. But the crux is that it was shamefully easy to give these people hope and a start. Between this and the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project where we're working with indigenous bean farmers, it's amazing how easy it is to do business where everybody wins.

IMG_3608.JPG

Anyway, the good news is that the oregano was delicious and apparently healthy. My trip was incredibly moving and of course delicious.


Edited by rancho_gordo (log)

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

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"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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Bravo - eye opening post.


The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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Thanks for that post and photos, Rancho Gordo. I hadn't seen it originally. That's a wonderful project.

And now to throw another monkey wrench into this thread, what about Greek oregano?? I've bought that several times and found it to be extra fragrant and delicious, particularly when used in Greek cuisine, of course. Anyone here know if that's a different plant as well?? The stalks are very long and don't look anything like a dried version of the fresh oregano I see at the restaurant or in the supermarket...


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I think Greek oregano is a true oregano, unlike the Mexican ones. That's all I know, and it's not much, is it?


Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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I grow the greek and it is much,much better than the others ...I have grown the lippa graveolins and it is also very good but I can't always find it

Bud

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So I've got me some oregano indio from Rancho Gordo's online store. Steve: thanks! Also, what are the sorts of things that can I do with it? I definitely can smell not only an earthier note but also something minty or eucalyptus-y. It's so intoxicating I'm tempted to feature it pretty prominently in, say, a simple rice dish, and could imagine it would be amazing with lamb.


Chris Amirault

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My picky sons (9 and 12) love it. We smash it in a mortar with garlic and pear vinegar and make a paste that we rub all over a pork tenderloin. Stupid easy and really different.

Also don't forget if you make pozole, it's fun to have it in a small bowl and let guests hold their hands high above their heads and rub the oregano and let it cascade down into the bowl. It's dreamy as it passes the nostrils!


Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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Also don't forget if you make pozole, it's fun to have it in a small bowl and let guests hold their hands high above their heads and rub the oregano and let it cascade down into the bowl. It's dreamy as it passes the nostrils!

I second this use: I did it a couple weeks ago, at that RG oregano was fantastic, the smell alone is amazing.


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Agree totally. I've never tasted any Mexican oregano except RG's; intoxicating. To me it is like another plant entirely. I seem to be using it up in an alarmingly short time.

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I hope I am not hijacking this thread by asking about yet another type of oregano. I have a giant cuban oregano plant in my garden. The leaves are quite thick, almost succulent-looking. I've made the basic "open recipe insert herb" applications--rice, beans, chicken. Does anyone have any specific experience with this type of oregano? Here's a picture I snagged off of Google Images:

http://pics.davesgarden.com/pics/2009/05/19/RxAngel/085d56.jpg

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And another thumbs up for RG oregano.

The stuff is intoxicating. I've put it in beans and stews lately. Even in a great dish of green beans and stewed tomatoes.

Honestly, everything else seems wimpy to me now.


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I dont remember the real name of "mexican oregano" but I grew some several years ago and it is very different than normal oregano, much better, now I grow Greek oregano and it is much much better than the normal stuff and as good or better than mexican, but different...

Bud

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