Marjoram, a culinary herb in the mint family native to the Mediterranean, boasts a sweet and aromatic flavor kind of like a milder oregano. Widely used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, it enhances the taste of various dishes.
While historically associated with potential medicinal properties, caution is advised, and consulting a healthcare professional is recommended for any medicinal use.
Best Marjoram Substitutes
- Flavor: Oregano is the closest substitute to marjoram in terms of flavor. It has a similar earthy, slightly sweet taste with hints of mint and citrus.
- Why it’s a good substitute: Oregano is a bit stronger than marjoram, so you’ll want to use about ⅔ to ¾ the amount called for in the recipe. It’s also readily available in most grocery stores.
- Flavor: Substituting thyme offers a slightly peppery, earthy flavor with hints of lemon and mint. It’s not quite as sweet as marjoram, but it’s still a good substitute.
- Why it’s a good substitute: Thyme is a good choice for dishes where you want to add a bit of complexity to the flavor. It’s also a good option if you’re using fresh herbs, as thyme is more readily available fresh than marjoram.
3. Summer savory
- Flavor: Summer savory has a warm, peppery flavor with hints of mint and thyme. It’s slightly more savory than marjoram, but it’s still a good substitute.
- Why it’s a good substitute: Summer savory is a good choice for dishes where you want to add a bit of depth of flavor. It’s also a good option if you’re using dried herbs, as summer savory is more readily available dried than marjoram.
- Flavor: Basil has a sweet, licorice-like flavor with hints of mint and pepper. It’s not quite as earthy as marjoram, but it can still be a good substitute.
- Why it’s a good substitute: Basil is a good choice for dishes where you want to add a bit of brightness to the flavor. It’s also a good option if you’re using fresh herbs, as basil is more readily available fresh than marjoram.
- Flavor: Sage has a strong, earthy flavor with hints of mint and pepper. It’s much stronger than marjoram, so you’ll want to use much less of it.
- Why it’s a good substitute: Sage is a good choice for dishes where you want to add a bit of depth of flavor. It’s also a good option if you’re using dried herbs, as sage is more readily available dried than marjoram.
6. Herbes de Provence
- Flavor: Herbes de Provence is a blend of herbs from the Provence region of France, typically including oregano, thyme, rosemary, and lavender. It has a complex, earthy flavor with hints of floral and citrus.
- Why it’s a good substitute: Herbes de Provence is a good choice for dishes where you want to add a bit of complexity to the flavor. It’s also a good option if you don’t have any of the other individual herbs on hand.
How to Grow and Dry your own Marjoram
If you don’t want to substitute and want to grow the real deal on your own, there are two main ways you can make your own marjoram: growing it and drying it. Here’s a guide for each:
1. Choose a planting method:
- Seeds: Starting from seeds is the most economical option, but it takes longer to harvest fresh leaves. Sow seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Once seedlings have developed several true leaves, transplant them outdoors to a sunny spot with well-drained soil.
- Young plants: Purchasing young marjoram plants from a nursery is faster than starting from seeds and gives you a head start on harvesting. Plant them outdoors after the last frost.
2. Provide optimal conditions:
- Sunlight: Marjoram needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
- Soil: Plant in well-drained, fertile soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5. If your soil is not well-drained, amend it with compost or potting mix.
- Watering: Water marjoram regularly, keeping the soil moist but not soggy. Let the top inch of soil dry before watering again.
- Fertilizing: Feed marjoram once a month during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength.
- Start harvesting leaves once the plant has established itself and has several sets of true leaves. You can pick individual leaves by hand or pinch off stems.
- Harvest regularly throughout the growing season to encourage continued growth.
- Avoid harvesting more than a third of the plant at any one time.
1. Harvest: Choose healthy stems with fresh leaves in the morning after the dew has dried. 2. Cleaning: Rinse the leaves gently and pat them dry with a clean towel. 3. Drying methods:
- Air drying: Tie stems together in bunches and hang them upside down in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. It can take up to 2 weeks for the leaves to dry completely.
- Oven drying: Spread leaves on a baking sheet in a single layer and dry in an oven at the lowest temperature setting (around 170°F/77°C) with the door slightly open to allow moisture to escape. Dry for 1-2 hours, checking frequently and turning the leaves occasionally until they crumble easily.
4. Storage: Once completely dry, store marjoram leaves in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. Dried marjoram will retain its flavor for up to 1 year.
Tip: You can also dry marjoram in a dehydrator following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Remember, growing and drying your own marjoram takes time and effort, but it can be a rewarding experience and provides you with the freshest and most flavorful herbs.
I hope this helps you grow and enjoy your own marjoram!