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Old July 3, 2009   #1
cdbva
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Default Oregano Flavor

I planted oregano last year from a small plant bought at the nursery. It was very tasty, and survived, with a few green leaves here and there, through the winter.

Now that it's summer, it's come back like mad, with massively abundant leaves. Lots and lots of leaves. Many shoots. It's even crowded out my mint. But its flavor is a bit bland. It was very hearty before -- especially those few brave leaves that held on through ice and snow.

So I'm wondering why it's bland now. Over the winter the flavor seemed even stronger, which I thought might be due to the leaves being old.

Any thoughts?

Christine
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Old July 3, 2009   #2
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When I studied medicinal herbs, the rule of thumb was that the more herbs were allowed to fend for themselves (poor, dry soil), the stronger the herbs were. Is it in full sun? Not fertilized? Kept on the dry side (but don't let it wilt)?

Also, I pick mine (for drying) before it puts any energy into flowers. I try to catch it just as the stems start to elongate, before any flowers start forming.
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Old July 3, 2009   #3
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Ohhhhh. Maybe all this rain is the culprit. We've had a phenomenally wet spring, barely saw the sun until the first of June, and not that much since then.
The soil is not great -- so I know I'm doing that right. And it's in full sun.

Maybe I'll just have to wait until the rain lets up. Darn, I miss that bite-you-back flavor!

Christine
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Old July 4, 2009   #4
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Funny, I was looking at an herb book that said marjoram was the opposite of most herbs -- it gets a stronger flavor in rich soil. So maybe this is the year to plant marjoram.

I'd give you a cutting if you weren't allllllllll the way over on the other coast. I planted a marjoram plant last year and it started elbowing all the other plants aside in early spring. I had to cut it back by a half to two thirds. Now it's starting to flower.

One thing to try is to plant the oregano in a container with a fast-draining sandy soil. I don't know if this would intensify the flavor, but it's worth experimenting.
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Old July 5, 2009   #5
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Christine, I suspect it IS the rain we had - everything grew so fast and lush that it didn't have a chance to develop full flavor.

My own oregano is very dubious in quality, but I've got a good hardy marjoram and could probably give you a division or cutting. PM me if you're interested.

Robin (just west of you)
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Old July 5, 2009   #6
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Christine, thank you for posting the question again. May I ask a follow up question?

Should I keep a pot of oregano separately for cooking? I did last year, but this season I have my herbs planted with tomatoes for protection! And on that note, in your experience do herbs really improve tomato flavor?

Thank you.
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Old July 6, 2009   #7
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Well, interesting question, Moonglow. I've heard rumblings around here that nothing will change the taste of the tomatoes. But then I've seen other rumblings to the contrary. Maybe someone in the know can clue us in with a respectable opinion.

What are you protecting, the tomatoes or the herbs?

C.
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Old July 8, 2009   #8
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I'm trying to protect the tomatoes, and so far so good. Of course being a newbie it's from what I read here and there regarding companion planting. I have oregano, marjoram, chives, marigold, nasturtium, borage, thyme, et al at the base of my tomato planters.

Please chime in if I got this all wrong.

Thanks!
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Old July 8, 2009   #9
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I went back to my garden and tasted the oregano and marjoram. It hasn't rained here for a couple months, but the oregano is still much, much milder than the marjoram. It wasn't the spiciest oregano variety to begin with, though.

I made some lentil soup the other day and added both oregano and marjoram (at the end, after taking the pot off the heat). I didn't really notice the oregano, but the marjoram, with a much thicker leaf, kept its assertive flavor. It was a pleasant surprise to find a marjoram leaf here and there.
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Old August 30, 2009   #10
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I am working on 2010 garden plan using information I can find online re companion planting. What I find is that oregano and basil along with carrots, celery, parsley do improve the flavor of tomatoes. My question here is this: How do you make space for these herbs when you want to fit in peppers, eggplants and potatoes in the same rotation group?
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Old August 31, 2009   #11
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I don't have enough space to rotate my tomatoes (well, I could if I planted fewer plants...), so I use lots of compost. I have noticed in the past couple years that kale and broccoli are not good companions for tomatoes. Planted on the edges of tomato beds, they seem to inhibit the growth of the tomatoes nearby. And when I've planted tomatoes in spots where brassicas grew a season before, they don't do well. It's different parts of the garden every year, and the only correlation seems to be the brassicas. Maybe it has something to do with mycorrhizae -- brassicas are one of the few plant families that don't need mycorrhizae to grow, so I assume they'll inhibit any mycorrhizae in the soil around them as well. The plants growing where brassicas grew 2 or 3 seasons ago are doing very well, however.

So I'll either plant the winter brassicas (turnips, kohlrabi, and karinata kale) in the shadier parts of the garden, or else add some of the soil mix that contains mycorhhizae to the soil when I pull out the brassicas in the spring. And I'm also planning to grow cover crops instead of edibles in the sunny beds for the winter.

As for the herbs, I let self-seeded borage, parsley, and oregano grow at the edges of tomato beds, and I've also planted basil, carrots, green onions, and celery along the edges. I even have a yacon growing in the middle of a tomato bed! I haven't noticed that any of these affect tomato flavor one way or another, and the other plants do well as long as they get enough sun.

Random notes on companion planting:

Strawberries along the edges of the tomato beds aren't doing as well as strawberries in containers, but the tomatoes don't seem to be affected (except they get a bit more water, so are doing a little better).

Tomatoes planted where potatoes grew the previous season aren't doing very well.

Peppers do much better in pots than in the ground for me, and if I try eggplants again, they will also go into pots. Growing peppers in pots also makes it easier to position them in the sunniest part of the garden.

I've grown bronze fennel next to a tomato bed for a few years, and it mostly protects the tomato plant from the cooling and drying afternoon winds, which I discovered when I prematurely pruned part of it back a couple years ago.

Surprisingly, one of the best combinations is a thornless blackberry growing on a trellis parallel to and inches away from a few rows of pole beans growing on supports. Both have done very well. Access is from the edges of the bed -- there's no room in-between the beans and blackberry.
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