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Scent of freshness

A herb that spreads fragrance



SWEET MARJORAM Used to flavour dishes PHOTO: K. ANANTHAN

This is the herb that scents wedding garlands and strings of kadambam. Think fragrant herbs and the first thing that come to mind is marugu (Origanum majorana).

Marugu, which belongs to the family Labiatae (mint family), is also called sweet or knotted marjoram. A bushy, shrub that is often grown through the year, it is about a foot tall with descending, multi-branched stems that spill over to create a mound.

Since the stems take root where they touch the soil, the mound gradually increases in diameter.

That makes it perfect for growing in hanging baskets — the stems form a cascade of attractive grey-green foliage. Since it requires very little space, you can also try growing it on your kitchen sill.

This plant, a native of North Africa and Southeast Asia, produces tiny white flowers on clustered spikes in summer. Marugu retains its fragrance even after drying, making it a vital ingredient of homemade potpourris.

The Greeks call this plant "joy of the mountain". They believe Aphrodite, the goddess of love, created sweet marjoram as a gentle symbol of happiness and use it to crown newlyweds on their wedding day.

Since it has an oregano-like flavour, marugu is also used to flavour food, especially Italian dishes.

It is often found in bouquet garni, a classic herb combination that includes parsley, thyme, bay, peppercorns, allspice, and tarragon, tucked between two stalks of celery,

Complements spices

Sweet marjoram complements bay, garlic, onion, thyme, and basil. It can be used as a substitute for oregano in tomato sauces for pizza and lasagne.

You can also drop a couple of sprigs into hot water for an invigorating bath. It has mildly antiseptic properties and is good for the skin.

It grows well in alkaline, well drained to dry soil. When planting marugu, ensure you place it in a sunny corner. It thrives in sunlight. You can grow it from seed or cuttings.

But, when growing from seed, sow it thinly and do not cover the seed, as it needs light to germinate. The plants flourishes quickly and should be pinched back often to remain bushy.

SUBHA J RAO

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