Cuban Oregano Uses
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Kristi Johnson
Posted on: August 21, 1999

My mother has a cuban oregano plant that is doing terrific this summer. This is the first year she has had the cuban variety, and she has some questions that I hope you can help answer. 1. What are some of the most popular ways to use this oregano? 2. How can this herb be saved and dried? (The leaves are thick and moist.)

The common name, "cuban oregano," confusingly refers to at least two different plants in North America. What Richters calls "Broadleaf thyme" is frequently called Cuban oregano. The botanical name for broadleaf thyme is Coleus amboinicus. Broadleaf thyme is a popular flavouring herb in the Caribbean, particularly in Jamaica where it is a keynote of the local cuisine. It has a rich thyme-like flavour and odour, and can be used in most meat dishes where english thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is used. It is not a pure thymol-like experience; it has wonderfully pleasing overtones edging onto "oregano" and "savory," which accounts for the plant’s confusing alter ego, "cuban oregano."

What Richters calls "cuban oregano" is different. This plant is a species of Plectranthus. It is closely related to broadleaf thyme, but the leaves are smaller, thicker, rounder and fleshier, and the flavour and odour have a decidedly sharp menthol-like component that belies its "oregano" moniker. Because its classification challenges the nose and tastebuds, it is described in the Richters catalogue (1999) as not being used in cooking. However, with today’s cuisine becoming ever more adventurous and playful, we would not be surprised if a creative chef finds a use for this plant in a pate, sauce or soup.

We have not tried drying the leaves. We imagine that they would be used fresh like broadleaf thyme. To dry the leaves, it maybe necessary to slice the leaves open into two halves so that they dry more quickly. However, experimentation may reveal that slicing is not necessary, that whole leaves dry just fine.

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