Oregano has ancient roots, and many present-day uses

Legend has it Venus, the ancient-Roman goddess of love, once fell in love, herself — with oregano, an herb that's native to the Mediterranean region.

I know how she felt, incidentally, since there are some herbal plants that I particularly care for, too — like oregano, for instance.

The oregano plant that Venus fell in love with lived on a mountain top, and, ever since, oregano is sometimes still referred to by some as "Joy of the Mountains."

Fortunately, it isn't necessary to live on a mountain to grow oregano. In fact, full sun and soil that drains freely are all that's really required to succeed with this drought-tolerant and pest-resistant, perennial plant.

But beware: This member of the mint family can easily outgrow its space. So carefully choose where you plant it.

We use fresh cuttings of home-grown, Italian oregano and Greek oregano during the growing season, and dried oregano leaves between growing seasons. We also use it to liberally season our favorite vegetable and salad dishes, and to make a peppery-tasting and aromatic salad dressing by soaking fresh sprigs overnight in olive oil.

Which reminds me. There's an ancient Greek myth regarding how a king's servant, Amarakus, dropped dead from fright after he accidentally spilled his king's favorite perfume. But the ancient Greek deities took pity on Amarakus and resurrected him as the original oregano plant — a plant that's still used in some places as a perfume component — because, presumably, the pleasing aroma of Amarakus persists to this day.

In the mean time, I think I'll add an extra sprig of oregano to this mountain of salad greens that I'm about to devour — just for the joy of it.

This week in the garden

Last summer, several of our hybrid tea roses failed to grow and bloom well, because of a prolonged heat wave and a lack of sufficient moisture.

So when it came time in March to prune our rose bushes to 30 inches, I only cut them back to 48 inches, to save their strength.

This year, the bushes are blooming prolifically. But their longer stems are breaking under the heavy weight of wet leaves and flowers.

So if our tea roses ever again fail to grow and bloom well, I'll cut them back to 36 inches the following spring.

In the meantime, at least the broken rose stems aren't going to waste, because they're in bouquets.

Lou Boulmetis is a certified master gardener who lives in Littlestown, Pa. Call him at 1-888-727-4287 or email hippodromehatter@aol.com.

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