People tend to forget that in addition to the main ingredients to an entrée, nutrition doesn’t stop before the spices and flavoring are added. Nope, those herbs and such have nutritional value all of their own! One of my favorite herbs is oregano, a simple and easy spice to add to so very many meals, usually pasta. But what good does oregano do beyond simply amplifying the flavor? Well, let’s read on and find out because oregano is today’s spotlighted ingredient in this nutrition facts article!
Oregano Culture and History
We can trace the origins of oregano to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, or at least the Greek myths concerning her. She was apparently the one who invented the herb as a way to make a man’s life happier, and oddly the word oregano comes from the phrase “joy of the mountains.” I’m…not sure how mountains of joy and a happy man are concerned, but it’s nice so I’ll go with it. Those Greeks really got into oregano in general, having married couples wearing crowns of oregano and using oregano as a bouquet for a dearly departed loved one’s grave. Oh, and I suppose they used it for medical reasons like as an antiseptic as well, but who’s keeping track? Hippocrates, that’s who.
As with so many things, the Romans stomped in and swiped it as their own, which technically it would have been as that’s just the spoils of conquering exactly everything. They started to use it a lot more to spice various foods, including wine. Oh you Romans, always looking for more ways to really go crazy with your wine!
The Middle Ages really perked up oregano’s popularity as it started to move throughout the world, heading to the whole of Europe and then over to China. It was just a simple way to make otherwise extremely bland food have some significant flavor, so why wouldn’t it get popular? The smell is intoxicating, so much so that the English, being the silly gentlemen that they are, started adding oregano to snuff, though it was also used in perfume, which may be a little less strange than simply snorting it.
However, most strange to me is the fact that the US never really had oregano before World War II. You’d think it’d just naturally make the leap across the pond but no! It wasn’t until the war when US soldiers were hanging around Italy when they found oregano and thought, “Hey, why don’t we have this back home?” Then they brought it with them when they returned and we have oregano here, too. History is perplexing!
Health Benefits of Oregano
The wonderful thing about herbs is that they’re primarily meant for flavoring, yet it takes so very little to make anything taste great, meaning oregano really doesn’t add any calories. It does however add fiber, which is not surprising as it’s a plant and plants are essentially roughage all around. Oh, and it helps to lower cholesterol as well, so it’s certainly pulling double duties as a flavor weed and a medicinal herb. Excellent for us!
But does it have any vitamins and minerals? Turns out it absolutely does, including vitamin C (of course, had to be vitamin C), as well as potassium, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and iron. It’s just amazing that you can find an instance like this where the herb itself is relatively small but still has some significant nutrition to it. Can it get any better?
Why yes it can! Oregano is a medicine from the old days, but it still works fairly well for certain things. It’s able to act as an anti-bacterial herb, as well as anti-fungal. It has properties that make your body flush out a lot of waste in a very natural way. It can even help with the flu, help with colds, help with fevers, help with stomach problems, and help with symptoms associated with menstruation. Looks like oregano is the super herb!
Eating More Oregano
Since we now know that oregano is just a step below a super hero (herbs can’t get their own comic books these days), it just makes sense to start adding it wherever possible. Luckily, as an herb it’s painfully easy to sprinkle in a dash in just about anything you want, usually pasta or soup, but there really is nothing stopping you from going overboard. Even bread gets a nice, spicy kick from some oregano baked in.
Have some tacos? Go ahead and put some oregano in there. Have some curry? Hey, oregano that puppy up! Making a salad and need an idea that’ll add some much-needed flavor without adding much-unneeded calories? Bam, oreganowned! Got some ice cream and- no, oregano won’t go good on your ice cream. At least…I don’t think it would work…more research is necessary. Someone please try this out and get back to me. It may just be crazy enough to work.
The cool thing about oregano is, it’s usually used in meat-based dishes to the point that oregano is considered a “meaty” flavor, at least to a certain point. However, oregano itself doesn’t have meat in it (as you’ve guessed), so adding it to food can still give you everything you’d want flavor-wise from a meat dish without the meat. Perhaps a good idea when you’re trying to cool for your meat-eating friends and want to ease them away from their current diets and onto something a bit more green? Always thinking of sneaky ways to make the shift!
If I keep going I’m going to make myself simply starving and that’s no good, so it’s time to open it up for comments and observations. What is your favorite oregano recipe? Do you like to add it to food experiments and see if you’ve concocted something new and exciting? Let me know! I’m not going anywhere at the moment, not as long as I have this oregano bread that is.