Botanical Name: Majorana hortenisis

Family: Labiatae

Hindi Name: Marwa

Native to southern Europe, it is generally distributed over western Asia, South and North America, France, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, England and North Africa. Similar to tarragon, marjoram is a spice, which needs a warm climate to develop its specific aroma, but loses, some fragrance when dried. Despite these drawbacks, it is a well-established culinary herb in central Europe. The aromatic and slightly bitter herb belongs to the mint family.

The herb grows to a height of 30-60 cm, and is extensively cultivated in India. The small leaves have hairs on both sides. Marjoram has a strong spicy and pleasant odour. It has a fragrant, sharp, spicy and camphoraceous flavour.

The composition of the dry herb is as follows:

  • Protein: 14.31 %
  • Fixed oil: 5.6 %
  • Volatile oil: 1.72 %
  • Fibre: 22.06 %
  • Ash: 9.69 %

The volatile oil obtained from leaves and flowering heads is known as the oil of sweet marjoram. The content of essential oil depends on soil, climate and season.

The main aroma component is a bicyclic monoterpene alcohol. Dried marjoram is extremely important in industrial food processing, and is much used in spice mixtures for the production of sausages.

Marjoram goes well with small amounts of black pepper in the preparation of venison. Marjoram is also used for heavy vegetables like cabbage or legumes. Fried potatoes spiced with liberal amounts of marjoram are delicious. Fresh marjoram is more popular in South European cooking styles. It is used in the French herbs and for spicing delicate fish dishes, as also the bouquet garni.

In countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, etc., in Western and Middle Asia, the marjoram that is grown locally is far more aromatic than the European marjoram. Throughout the region, this powerful herb is known as zahtar. In Jordan, the zahtar is used to prepare a spice mixture known by the same name.

Marjoram is also popular around the Caucasus Mountains. The cuisine of Georgia is known particularly for its subtle blend of herbs, and for its slightly sour, harmoniously spiced sauces. Marjoram is used for various Georgian meat and vegetable stews, and also for the many sauces.

Marjoram acts as a tonic, stimulant and carminative. The leaves and seeds are astringent. An infusion of the plant is used as emmenagogue and galactagogue. The essential oil makes a good external application for sprains and bruises.

The plant contains tannic acid and mucilage, and is useful in asthma, hysteria and paralysis. The oil is used in the perfume, soap and liquor industries. The leaves, used for garnishing salads, are also used for flavouring vinegar. Dried flowering tops are used for sachets and potpourri.

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