Hot and Spicy Oregano

This herb can take the heat

There’s no place for mild herbs in Mexico’s hot and spicy food. Herbs have to go with the heat, like oregano, thyme and chillies, or cool things down, like coriander and parsley.

Of the different types of oregano, the variety that best complements Mexican flavours is Oregano ‘Hot and Spicy’, and the name says it all – the leaves have a strong chilli flavour that adds a fiery edge to a dish.

Use it as a substitute for chillies (if you don’t like too much heat) in tomato-based sauces that include garlic, onions and olives. For chilli lovers it adds extra pungency, especially when stirred into Mexican fried rice or traditional beef and chicken dishes like chicken burritos.

Because of its high oil content, Oregano ‘Hot and Spicy’ dries well, and has an even stronger flavour. Use half the amount of dried oregano to fresh.

Another way to make the most of its aromatic leaves is in flavoured oil or vinegar, for splashing onto salads or into stir-fries.

  • Wash and dry a cup of lightly bruised leaves and put them in a glass bottle with a wide mouth.
  • Add a cup of canola oil or apple-cider or wine vinegar. Close the bottle and store it in a cool, dark place for two weeks, but don’t forget to swirl the contents every day to keep the leaves moist.
  • Decant the oil or vinegar into a sealable bottle, straining it through several layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter to catch the leaves. Press the leaves to extract all the oil or vinegar.
  • Seal the bottle and store the oil in the refrigerator, and the vinegar in a dark cupboard.

GOOD TO KNOW: Oregano ‘Hot and Spicy’ is a low-growing bushy perennial (20cm high and wide) that performs well in pots or in a sunny part of the food garden. Pick fresh leaves all year-round, as the plant is frost hardy. Plant it as a companion with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber and peppers. The aromatic leaves act as a pest repellent.

The Gardener