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What Is Mexican Oregano?

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  • Written By: O. Parker
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 09 April 2014
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Mexican oregano is a culinary herb native to Mexico. Though it tastes similar to regular oregano, the two types are not related. The fragrant leaves are used in traditional Mexican cooking where they impart a strong, earthy flavor. Traditionally, the leaves were made into an herbal tea used to treat minor respiratory problems. In the garden, this fragrant herb attracts butterflies and other pollinators with fragrant white flowers.

Though they share the same name and impart a similar flavor when used in cooking, Mexican and common oregano are not related. Mexican oregano belongs to the Verbenaceae plant family while common oregano belongs to the mint family. Mexican oregano can be found under the species name Lippia graveolens, while the common oregano species is Origanum vulgare.

A native to Mexico, this species of oregano is a frost-sensitive plant. It can be grown outdoors year round in areas where winter temperatures rarely drop below 20 to 30°F (about -6 to -1°C). In colder climates, this oregano can be grown in a container and kept indoors or in a greenhouse for the winter. When overwintering the plants indoors, they should be kept at 50°F (about 10°C).

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Mexican oregano, either planted in the ground or in a pot, grows best when it gets six or more hours of sun per day. It does not require a lot of water or fertilizer to grow well. In pots, the soil can be allowed to dry out slightly between watering. When planted in the garden, this drought-tolerant herb will require water only during periods of excessive heat and dry weather.

Delicate, fragrant white flowers bloom year round in frost-free climates and on greenhouse-grown plants. The flowers are a rich source of nectar for butterflies as well as bees and other pollinating insects. Birds are attracted to the nutritious seeds and numerous wildlife nest in large shrubs making this fragrant plant a good candidate for a wildlife garden.

The leaves can be harvested year round for use in traditional Mexican dishes and in any culinary creation where a strong, earthy oregano flavor is desired. It enhances meat dishes, fish and tomato sauce, and can be used where recipes call for the similar Mexican herb epazote. The leaves can be used fresh right from the plant or dried and stored for later use.

As an herbal tea, Mexican oregano is said to help relieve minor respiratory problems. But one need not suffer an ailment to enjoy the rich flavor of this tea. Preparation is simple — all that is needed is boiling water and a tablespoon of dried or fresh herbs.

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Discuss this Article

SteamLouis
Post 3

My dad has some of this in his garden and it's crazy! It grows and multiplies so quickly! It can easily take over the whole garden if it's not managed.

I'm not even sure where he got it from, but I'm assuming he got it in a small pot from the nursery just out of curiosity. But the herb loved the shade behind the house and has literally blossomed.

I do dry some of it to use in the kitchen, but I don't use it that frequently. I need to start exploring the medicinal uses of this herb because there is just too much of it in the garden.

discographer
Post 2

@ysmina-- How much oregano does your recipe call for? If it's no more than a tablespoon, I think you can substitute it with Mexican oregano without it altering the flavor of the dish much. But if you're going to use more, it will change the flavor.

Mexican oregano and Mediterranean oregano are similar, but definitely not the same. Some people say that Mexican oregano has a deeper, stronger flavor, but I don't think so. It's a personal opinion and preference. But in general, the two can be substituted for one another in smaller quantities.

ysmina
Post 1

I'm cooking and I ran out of oregano. My roommate only has Mexican oregano.

So can I use Mexican oregano as a substitute for regular oregano (Italian oregano)? Will it change the flavor of the food a lot?

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