Greek Oregano – Ρίγανη (pronounced REE-gah-nee)
Origins- Origanum vulgare
The name comes from two ancient Greek words. Oros and Ganos. Oros means the mountain and Ganos means the brilliance of joy. Oreganos is then referred to as the brilliant joy of the mountain. Anyone who walks when it is in bloom on the Greek mountain slopes can attest to the fantastic smell and softness of this plant that envelope the mountains. The plant plays an important role in erosion control on the mountain sides of Greece. Its roots reduce soil erosion. This plant finds life at the highest, driest and most difficult mountainous conditions in Greece. The best Greek Oregano is wild and comes from two places; Taygetus, the highest mountain region in Sparta and in the Olympus Mountains, where the Ancient Greek Gods called home. While Oregano loves sun it can thrive in 25 degree below Celsius. This is a testament to the strength of this plant. The Wild Greek Oregano there is seeded from plants that have grown there for thousands of years. Historically, as the name implies, Greek oregano originates on the mountain slopes of Greece. The Roman Empire adopted Greek Philosophy and knowledge. Included in that would be medicine and the use of the herb oregano from a medicinal and culinary standpoint. That is how Oregano was brought to Rome and then spread throughout Europe. Europe followed Hippocrates philosophy, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Eventually through trade Oregano made its way to China where it was used medicinally. The Chinese had vast herbal knowledge and welcomed this new plant into their pharmacopeia.
FLAVOR- Oregano is pungent, warm and peppery. Its leaves have a sharper flavor than sweet marjoram and taste a little like thyme. It is savory, earthy and aromatic. . It is more flavorful when dried than fresh.
Cooking & Food- It is used in almost every Greek dish. Oregano is marinated on every meat, poultry and fish along with lemon and olive oil. Oregano, Olive Oil and Lemon are the holy trinity of Greek cooking. These 3 ingredients are key to the fresh, simple, tastiness of Greek cuisine. While Greeks have been using oregano for perhaps thousands of years, other countries also cultivate their own oregano such as Italy, Spain and Mexico. Each plant slightly varies in its strength and flavor. Greek Oregano is more subtle. Americans really didn’t use or know much about Oregano until World War 2 when American soldiers brought it home. Oregano, like other herbs, loses its distinctive flavor during cooking as the volatile oils evaporate, so it is often added in the last few minutes of cooking or tossed atop a dish before serving. When it is used in marinades it has hours or sometimes days to pull the flavor into the meat. Oregano can be added to meats, poultry, fish, marinades, sauces, soups and stews as well as pizza, pasta, and any salad or side dish. Crush the leaves with your hands before adding to any dish to bring out the flavor and aroma of this delicious herb.
Horatiki- Traditional Greek Village Salad- Chop chunks of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers into a bowl. Add a few slivered onions and green peppers. Next place Greek Feta Cheese in a block or crumble atop salad. Toss your favorite Greek Olives over it. Our favorite olive is Kalamata Olives from the Kalamata region of Greece. Pour Organic Greek Olive Oil generously over the salad. Crush dried oregano in your hands and sprinkle over your salad. When the olive oil and freshly crushed dried oregano are applied they marry the flavors together in a delicious and simple way. It’s fresh, light and incredibly appetizing. Enjoy your salad and when you get to the end of your bowl sop up the oil and oregano with a piece of homemade bread, just like we do in Greece. Kali Orexi! (Good Appetite).
Mythology - According to Greek mythology, the sweet, spicy scent of oregano was created as a gift by the goddess Aphrodite as a symbol of happiness. In ancient Greece, brides and grooms were crowned with a laurel of oregano to bring them happiness. Oregano plants were also placed on tombs to give peace to departed spirits. Planted around your home it is said to bring happiness and protection. Hippocrates born about 460 BC was the first to speak about the healing properties of oregano. He was born on the island of Kos. The island had an Asklipion which was a place for healing and prayer dedicated to the Ancient healer Asklipeous who was also the son of the God Apollo. Hippocrates father, Heracledes was an excellent doctor and a priest there. His grandfather was a Prothiereas in Asklipion which is the highest degree of a priest to the ancients. Although we view Hippocrates as the father of modern day medicine we can see his knowledge was handed down to him from many generations before. Prayer and healing were always connected.
Healing Properties Of Oregano- Oregano’s power to heal has been known for many centuries. Oregano oil derived from the leaves has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. It is used as a painkiller and anti-inflammatory. Oregano tea is a treatment for indigestion, coughs, and to stimulate menstruation. The oil of oregano is used for toothache, and in some cosmetics. It could also be used as a laxative for its cathartic effect. The leaves and flowering stems are natural antiseptics because of high thymol content. Ancient Greeks made creams derived from Oregano leaves and then applied them to sore, aching muscles. It was also used by Traditional Chinese doctors to treat fever, vomiting and diarrhea, jaundice and itchy skin. In Europe it continues to be used to aid digestion and soothe coughs. Oregano has a wide reaching health benefits, but it is mostly associated with immune system health. When food is marinade in Oregano it will aid in the digestion which may be one of the reasons it was originally added to Greek cuisine in ancient times.
Oregano has extremely high levels of antioxidants and antimicrobial compounds. One teaspoon of oregano has the same antioxidant power (ORAC) of two cups of red grapes. It contains the phytochemical Quercetin, which is known to slow cancer growth and also promote apoptosis (natural cell death) in cancer cells. Oregano is a good source of Vitamin K and Iron.
Oregano contains carvacrol; a molecule that may help offset the spread of cancer cells by working as a natural disinfectant. Carvacrol is also present in marjoram, mint, thyme, basil, and parsley. Marinating foods with oregano may also reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) — chemicals created when meat is cooked at high temperatures. HCAs have been found to increase cancer risk in animals.
Oregano oil has also shown promise in preventing food-borne illnesses caused by pathogens like listeria, salmonella, E. coli, and Shigella dysenteria. Adding it to foods not only helps kill the bacteria, but may also alleviate food poisoning symptoms.
The Active ingredients in Oregano oil are Thymol - a natural fungicide and antiseptic, Carvacrol – found to be effective against various bacterial infections, Terpenes – known for powerful antibacterial properties, Rosmarinic acid – an antioxidant that prevents free radical damage, Naringin – which inhibits the growth of cancer cells and helps boost the antioxidants, and Beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP) - this substance inhibits inflammation. Nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, manganese, copper, boron, and niacin are also found in oregano oil.
Physical Characteristics- Greek Oregano, in bloom, reaches a height of almost two feet. Like all culinary oreganos, its flower is white. Its leaves are coarse, oval, and fuzzy. Leaves range from 5 to 8 inch long; they are dark green when fresh and light green when dried.
It’s a hardy, bushy perennial herb, and a member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. It’s native to Europe, although it grows in many areas around the world.
Oregano is sold fresh and dried as cuttings of flower tops and leaves packaged in disposable containers or as dried, ground leaves packaged in sprinkle-pour bottles.
Not all oreganos are equal. Greek Oregano (rigani) is a subspecies with the Latin name Origanum vulgare (previously Origanum Heracleoticum or Oreganum Heraclites). Look at oregano package labeling to identify it. Different oreganos have variations in flavors and healing properties.
Oregano Tea-For a warm spicy tea that can settle the stomach or soothe a cough use one to two teaspoons of dried herb per cup of boiling water. Let it steep 10 minutes, drain herb and drink tea.
I hope you enjoyed this journey learning about Greek Oregano in all its glory.
Στην υγειά μας! (stin iyá mas!), To Our Health and Well Being,
Whatever our heritage, we all treasure our children. They are our future. So when my 12-year old son asked me why I left my home in Greece many years ago to come to America and start a new life, it got me thinking about the treasures I have found here, and how many of those treasures in American culture are so deeply rooted in the philosophy of my ancient homeland.
I decided to share my memories and my thoughts with you, my fellow friends, my fellow Americans, who find ourselves sharing in this wonderful experience of Los Angeles 2014.
We take pride in our democracy, our freedom of speech, science, medicine, even our style of storytelling in books and movies. I too take pride in them, I feel them personally, knowing all of these evolved from my ancestors, the ancient Greeks.
We Americans strive to be healthy and admire those who are active, in good physical condition, and encourage even our elderly to be active. Every four years, we, as citizens’ of the world take pride in the Olympic Games, an ancient Greek tradition that started in 776 B.C. and continued for 11 centuries.
In the middle of the 5th century B.C., intellectual freedom was the defining feature of Athens. For them the development of the mind was foremost — for a democracy, a government “by the people”, could not exist for future generations without this individual freedom.
As an American, I am deeply moved each time I read the words that begin the Constitution: We the People…. There is a of difficulty in the world today; economic hardship here and abroad. Yet no matter how difficult and discouraging life can be, in the end it is still, “We the People”. With that positive and cooperative frame of mind ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
“We the People” have the ability to create the type of society we want to live in and we want to pass on to future generations. That inspires me. That is what I hope will inspire my son.
— Dimitri Houndalas
From the Larchmont Chronicle
Le Petit Greek co-owners and brothers Dimitri and Thomas Houndalas have spent the past 25 years serving grilled rack of lamb, bechamel-topped moussaka and a cold glass of retsina.
Also on the menu at the 100-seat Village staple is hormone-free, “grass-finished” beef. The seasonal menu is part of a larger “Hellenic” experience that expands beyond food, delicious as it is.
“Our philosophy is to give the best possible, healthiest, organic version of food in the most reasonable price…
“It’s part of our culture, a healthy mind, a healthy body. That’s what our ancestors taught us,” says Dimitri.
Up before sunrise, he shops for fresh produce, meat and fish in time to be back to greet the lunch crowd.
Read the Full Article…
A wildly held misconception in the main stream is that eating red meat is unhealthy and related to greater disease risk. There is significant evidence that eating processed meat is associated with greater disease risk; including diabetes, cancer and heart disease. However, red meat studies and reviews show no association and risk for disease.
The reason studies have shown red meat to be negative is because the participants in those studies were fed highly processed meat. Besides being processed it was conventionally grain fed and packed with hormones. The cleanliness and quarters the animals were raised in also would not be considered humane or healthy. That affects the health of the animal as stress hormones are released into the animal when it is not living a more natural life. As doctor Sean Lucan pointed out in a letter that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; it may be less about whether the meat is red and more about what the animal was fed. That is what is causing ill health and disease.
Factory farmed meats comes from animals raised on a mixture of genetically modified corn, chicken manure, antibiotics, hormones and ground up parts of other animals. Shocking isn’t it? Factory farmed beef and organic pasture raised beef are drastically different.
Organic Pasture Raised Beef contains amazing nutrients. It has Amino Acids like creatine, carnosine, carnitine, and glycine. It has vitamins B12 and absorbable minerals like Zinc & Iron. It has healthy fats like EPA and DHA for health and well being.
CLA- Conjugated Linoleic Acid
It is an anti-carcinogenic nutrient. CLA is a naturally occurring free fatty acid found mainly in grass fed beef and grass fed dairy products. CLA was discovered by accident in 1978 by Professor Michael W. Pariza. Professor Pariza was at the Food Research Institute, University of Wisconsin, when he began studying the formation of bacterial mutagens in ground beef during grilling.
Conclusion of Professor Pariza’s Study
A growing body of data indicates that CLA is a nutrient that functions to regulate energy retention and metabolism. One of the most prominent effects of CLA is to regulate body fat and protein partitioning (body fat and lean body mass). Improved growth performance and enhanced immune function and reduced cancer risk. CLA also reduced blood LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein, often referred to as bad cholesterol) and it reduced the development of atherosclerosis (a common form of arteriosclerosis).
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid used for human growth and development. We must have it to be healthy. Grass finished beef is the best source of this essential nutrient. The source of Omega 3 is the green leaves of plants. When cattle are taken off feeding from the richness of Omega 3 grass, and shipped to a feed lot to be fattened on grain they begin to losing this beneficial fat.
FACTS About CLA & Omega 3′s
CLA conjugated linoleic acid is a good fat that is found in grass fed animal meat. Research shows that CLA can prevent cancer only if it is gotten from a grass fed & grass finished animal.
- Grass Fed & Grass Finished beef has four times more CLA than grain fed beef.
- Omega 3’s in grass fed beef is 7 % of the total fat content. As opposed to 1% in the grain fed beef.
- Organic grass fed beef is higher in omega 3 fats, EPA, DHA.
Grass fed and grass finished beef also has more than double the vitamins E & A and provide more Glutathione which is an antioxidant that is enormously effective in protecting the DNA and cells from cancers. Organic grass fed & finished beef has the highest Glutathione content of all foods. It is surpassed only by asparagus.
Grass Fed only means that the animals were generally raised on grass, but fed primarily grain over the last month before slaughter to fatten them up. Grass Fed & Grass Finished Beef means the animal was only fed Grass its entire life and raised healthfully on a pasture as nature intended. And that my friends is what Le Petit Greek Serves.
Since the average American consumes twice his or her weight in meat per year it is wise to ingest only the best quality, because your health is worth it.
Like my good friend Jack Lalanne used to tell me, “The best investment anyone can do is to invest in their health”. So my advice to you is this; purchase organic vegetables, fruits and for sure organic pasture raised meats, eggs and dairy. Of course we can only buy what is available to us and what we can afford, but try your best to make your health a priority by eating fresh non processed foods. When dining out please choose a restaurant that you really trust and you can verify that they put pride in their work and care about your well being, by serving healthy, fresh food. Also make sure they have a clean restaurant and hospitable atmosphere. Last, but not least be active everyday 20 to 30 minutes. You can choose how you want to be active. Walking, running, biking, swimming, lifting weights, yoga, Tai Qi, gardening are just a few wonderful choices. Do anything that would move your Qi ( life force).
Stin Y Yassas (to your health),
References: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Sean Lucan and Charles Poliquin Group.
- Pariza MW, Hargraves WA (1985) Carcinogenesis.
- Pariza MW, Loretz LJ, Storkson JM, Holland NC (1988)
- Pariza MW, Park Y, Cook M, Albright K, Liaw Cancer Research
- Pariza MW, Simopoulos AP (1987) Calories and Energy Expenditure.
- Pariza MW, Leek, Kritchevsky D. (1994) CLA Inhibits Atherosclerosis.
Le Petit Greek proudly serves Brunette Downs’, Grass Fed, Grass Finished Beef…The healthiest alternative to grain fed beef.
Cattle are humanely treated
Lower in Saturated Fats & Cholesterol
Higher in Omega 3’s (heart friendly)
Higher in CLA’s (cancer fighting agents)
Farm to Fork Traceability
Wet Aged, 40 days
Shelf life, 120 days
Guaranteed Eating Quality
From our Friends and Patrons at OpenTable.com
“Dear Le Petit Greek,
Congratulations! As a tribute to the excellent experience your restaurant provides, OpenTable.com diners voted your restaurant, Le Petit Greek, onto the 2013 OpenTable Diners’ Choice lists…
As a reminder, our Diners’ Choice lists are generated by the feedback we receive from diners who book through OpenTable and are marked as seated at your restaurant. OpenTable emails these diners asking them to complete a Dining Feedback Form about the different aspects of their dining experience…”
Thank You Everyone, from your friends at Le Petit Greek
A Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil and a little wine can cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 30 percent, researchers reported on Monday in a study that shows the real-life benefits of a diet long encouraged by doctors.
The results were so startling that the study was cut short after less than five years, and the results rushed to publication in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“A Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events,” the researchers, led by Dr. Ramon Estruch of the Carlos III Health Institute in Barcelona, wrote.
Le Petit Greek
Los Angeles, CA 90004
MondayLunch: 11AM-4PM Dinner: 4-10PM
TuesdayLunch: 11AM-4PM Dinner: 4-10PM
WednesdayLunch: 11AM-4PM Dinner: 4-10PM
ThursdayLunch: 11AM-4PM Dinner: 4-10PM
FridayLunch: 11AM-4PM Dinner: 4-10PM
SaturdayLunch: 11AM-4PM Dinner: 4-10PM
SundayLunch: 11AM-4PM Dinner: 4-10PM