Origanum majorana (Majorana hortensis)
Mediterranean people have been using marjoram both as a culinary and a medicinal herb since ancient times. Besides being prized for its flavor, fragrance and curative properties, marjoram was considered a symbol of happiness.
Sweeter than thyme and milder than oregano, as seasoning marjoram can be used either fresh (recommended) or dried (if you have no choice). Its fragrance is sensitive to heat and therefore, if you plan to add it to a cooked dish, do so at the very end. Marjoram is perfect over pizza, with vegetables, meat, fish and beans. With such a versatility in its resume, hiring (that is, growing) marjoram in your herb garden is an easy choice.
One hypothesis regarding the origin of its name purports that women devoted 'major' attention to the cultivation of the plant, whose fragrance they loved above all else.
Marjoram is particularly popular in the Italian region of Liguria, where it is called erba persa, Persian herb, a reference to an origin from the Middle East that is not accurate, since marjoram's birth place appears to be Africa. Marjoram is an ingredient of salsa di noci (walnut sauce) used to season traditional Ligurian pasta . The entry for pesto in a 1876 text mentions parsley and marjoram as possible ingredients for the famous green sauce, instead of basil.
I picked a few leaves yesterday and added them to risotto with pattypan squash: the result was delicious, with the added bonus of a pleasant fragrance on my fingertips.