Two species of marjoram now grown for culinary purposes

(several others were formerly popular) are members of the Labiatae or

mint family--pot or perennial marjoram (Origanum vulgare, Linn.) and

sweet or annual (O. Marjorana). Really, both plants are perennials,

but sweet marjoram, because of its liability to be killed by frost, is

so commonly cultivated in cold countries as an annual that it has

acquired this name, wh
ch readily distinguishes it from its hardy

relative. Perennial marjoram is a native of Europe, but has become

naturalized in many cool and even cold temperate climates. It is often

found wild in the Atlantic states in the borders of woods.

The general name origanum, meaning delight of the mountain, is derived

from two Greek words, oros, mountain; and ganos, joy, some of the

species being found commonly upon mountain sides. Under cultivation it

has developed a few varieties the most popular of which are a variegated

form used for ornamental purposes, and a dwarf variety noted for its

ability to come true to seed. Both varieties are used in cookery. The

perennial species seems to have had the longer association with

civilization; at least it is the one identified in the writings of

Pliny, Albertus Magnus and the English herbalists of the middle ages.

Annual marjoram is thought to be the species considered sacred in India

to Vishnu and Siva.

Description.--Perennial marjoram rises even 2 feet high, in branchy

clumps, bears numerous short-stemmed, ovate leaves about 1 inch long,

and terminal clusters or short spikes of little, pale lilac or pink

blossoms and purple bracts. The oval, brown seeds are very minute. They

are, however, heavy for their size, since a quart of them weighs about

24 ounces. I am told that an ounce contains more than 340,000, and would

rather believe than be forced to prove it.

Annual marjoram is much more erect, more bush-like, has smaller,

narrower leaves, whiter flowers, green bracts and larger, but lighter

seeds--only 113,000 to the ounce and only 20 ounces to the quart!

Cultivation.--Perennial marjoram when once established may be readily

propagated by cuttings, division or layers, but it is so easy to grow

from seed that this method is usually employed. There is little danger

of its becoming a weed, because the seedlings are easily destroyed while

small. The seed should be sown during March or April in flats or beds

that can be protected from rain. It is merely dusted on the surface, the

soil being pressed down slightly with a board or a brick. Until the

seedlings appear, the bed should be shaded to check evaporation. When

the plants are 2 or 3 inches tall they may be transplanted to the places

where they are to remain, as they are not so easy to transplant as

lettuce and geraniums. The work should be done while the plants are very

small, and larger numbers should be set than will ultimately be allowed

to grow. I have had no difficulty in transplanting, but some people who

have had prefer to sow the seed where the plants are to stand.

If to be used for edging, the dwarf plants may be set 3 or 6 inches

apart; the larger kinds require a foot or 15 inches in which to develop.

In field cultivation the greater distance is the more desirable. From

the very start the plants must be kept free from weeds and the soil

loose and open. Handwork is essential until they become established. The

plants will last for years.

Annual marjoram is managed in the same kind of way as to seeding and

cultivation; but as the plant is tender, fresh sowings must be made

annually. To be sure, plants may be taken up in the fall and used for

making cuttings or layers towards spring for the following seasons beds.

As annual marjoram is somewhat smaller than the perennial kind (except

the dwarf perennial variety), the distances may be somewhat less, say 9

or 10 inches. Annual marjoram is a quick-growing plant--so quick, in

fact, that leaves may be secured within six or eight weeks of sowing.

The flowers appear in 10 to 12 weeks, and the seed ripens soon after.

When it is desired to cure the leaves for winter use, the stems should

be cut just as the flowers begin to appear, and dried in the usual

manner. (See page 25.) If seed is wanted, they should be cut soon after

the flowers fall or even before all have fallen--when the scales around

the seeds begin to look as if drying. The cut stems must be dried on

sheets of very fine weave, to prevent loss of seed. When the leaves are

thoroughly dry they must be thrashed and rubbed before being placed in

sieves, first of coarse, and then of finer mesh.

Uses.--The leaves and the flower and tender stem tips of both species

have a pleasant odor, and are used for seasoning soups, stews, dressings

and sauces. They are specially favored in France and Italy, but are

popular also in England and America. In France marjoram is cultivated

commercially for its oil, a thin, light yellow or greenish liquid, with

the concentrated odor of marjoram and peppermint. It has a warm, and

slightly bitter taste. About 200 pounds of stems and leaves are needed

to get a pound of oil. Some distillation is done in England, where 70

pounds of the plant yield about one ounce of oil. This oil is used for

perfuming toilet articles, especially soap, but is perhaps less popular

than the essential oil of thyme.