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Spicy sweet marjoram

Marjoram, or origanum majorana, is a tender perennial that many people overlook, assuming it is much the same as oregano. Marjoram, however, is sweet, spicy and deserves its own place in your herb garden. Learn more here!

Sweet marjoram
There are other forms of marjoram, but I am profiling sweet marjoram. You will need to make sure this is what you are buying when you look for it. Often there is confusion with wild marjoram and some forms of oregano.

Sweet Marjoram grows about 12 inches tall and is mostly grown as an annual. It is fairly slow growing so either start early or buy a plant at a garden center. The benefit to starting from seeds is that you can grow some inside and outside for such a low cost. Marjoram grows well in containers and inside as a kitchen herb!

It needs a sunny spot with fairly rich soil, but not overly moist. It does need room to breathe both indoors and outdoors, so don't overcrowd. Keep it weeded VERY well, again, because it doesn't like being overcrowded. Also, new seedlings should be kept out of the blazing hot sun if possible. After the first frost, you can cut it down to about one inch from the ground and transplant to a six-inch pot to bring indoors or leave in the ground and mulch it for protection. In colder climates it may not survive, but it doesn't hurt to take the chance as long as you move one inside as well.

You may begin lightly harvesting marjoram after about six weeks. The flowers can be harvested as well for salads. Use fresh of course, or dry in a dark warm place for about a week and store in dark containers away from light. It will also freeze well for about two months. To keep your plants tidy, harvest them on a regular basis.

Sweet marjoram is suitable for all meats, fish and poultry. Its sweet and spicy taste and aroma are very versatile. Use it in egg dishes, soups, stews, potatoes, squash, marinades and in salads. It's great combined with bay, garlic, onion, thyme and basil. Try adding two tablespoons of minced marjoram to your cornbread recipes, or a tablespoon of fresh in minestrone soups.

Italian Herb Casserole
Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef chuck
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoon fresh marjoram, minced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup cream-style cottage cheese
1/2 8-ounce package cream cheese, diced
1/2 pound medium egg noodles, cooked and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2 1/2- to 3-quart casserole with cooking spray and set aside. Saut� beef, sausage, onion and garlic in a very large heavy skillet over medium heat, breaking up while browning, about five minutes. Stir in marjoram and thyme to cook, stirring often, three to four minutes. Mix in tomato sauce, cottage cheese, cream cheese, noodles, salt and pepper. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed. Turn into the casserole and sprinkle cheese evenly on top. Bake, uncovered, until browned and bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes. Serves six.

Herbed Potato Salad
Ingredients:
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
4 anchovies, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram
3 cups green beans, trimmed
2 pounds potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup red onion, sliced thinly and chopped

Directions:
Mix olive oil, vinegar, minced shallots and the minced anchovies in medium glass bowl. Whisk in 1 teaspoon each of parsley, basil and marjoram. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. Cook beans in boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about five minutes. Drain. Rinse under cold water; pat dry. Boil potatoes until just tender. Transfer to large bowl. Heat dressing in microwave just until warm, about 30 seconds. Pour half of the warm dressing over potatoes and toss to coat. Place potatoes on a very large platter in the center. Toss the beans and remaining dressing in same bowl. Arrange beans around potatoes. Sprinkle with onion and remaining herbs.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Note: You can mix together all the leftovers after the meal to store and eat the next day.

Cream of Carrot Soup
Ingredients:
10 carrots, cleaned and sliced
6 cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2-1 tsp. fresh minced dill
2 tsp. fresh minced marjoram
2 tsp. fresh minced parsley
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup cream
Fresh parsley for garnish

Directions:
In a large Dutch oven, heat the butter or margarine, add the onions and the garlic, saut� until light golden. Add the broth, the carrots, dill, marjoram, parsley and salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat, let simmer until carrots are done. Mix cornstarch with small amount of cold water to dissolve. Add to the soup and stir well. Add the cream and let simmer another 15 minutes. Do not boil. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serves eight to 10

Spice Blend for Meat and Vegetables
Ingredients:
Mix and store in container away from light:
3 teaspoons dried parsley
4 tsp. dried marjoram
2 tsp. dried rosemary
11/2 tsp. dried sage

Marinade for Pork
Ingredients:
1/2 cup wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoon fresh chopped marjoram
1 tsp. fresh minced thyme
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

Steak Rub
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:
Combine all ingredients and store in a covered container. Rub over steaks before grilling or broiling. Enough for four to five steaks.

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