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  • Dr Thor Conner

Wonderful Cuban Oregano

Care and feeding of a Cuban Oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus) Cuban Oregano, also known as Mexican mint, Mexican thyme, oregano brujo and broad leaf thyme is one of my favorite, and under rated, plants. It’s a perennial succulent, hard to kill as long as it doesn’t freeze. It is often kept as a houseplant, but thrives in the warm moist Chicago summer. It contains volatile oils in its fragrant foliage that can be used in cooking, tasting and behaving similarly to its namesake Mediterranean oregano in food. The herb is common in Cuban, Indian and Philippino cooking, The leaves are best used fresh and are more pungent than one expects. In the West Indies this herb is dried and added to some jerk seasoning blends, and in Cuba it is added to black beans and salsa. In Japan the leaves are prepared and cooked like spinach. Nutritionally, the herb is a source of vitamins C, A and E, phosphates and trace minerals. Medicinally, it contains the volitle oils thymol and carvacol, both ingredients in Listerine and Gold Bond with strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. The plant contains a diterpine compound known as forskolin, the source of the drug rolipram. Rolipram is used to treat heart disease, colon cancer and glaucoma, and has off label use as a weight loss aid. Other compounds have demonstrated strongly anti inflammatory action. In Chinese medicine the herb is called dao shou xiang, roughly translated as “makes the hands fragrant”, and is used to help soothe digestion, relax spasms, and it has antibiotic, expectorant and laxative effects. The leaf juice can be mixed with honey and made into a great cough syrup. “Cuban oregano is a member of the mint or deadnettle family. As such, it has characteristic thick, fuzzy leaves with a strong pleasing odor. Leaves are grayish green and finely haired and saw-toothed at the edges. Flowers are borne in panicles and may be white, pink, or lavender. Plants grow between 12 and 18 inches tall and may develop a trailing habit, making it attractive in hanging baskets. As an in-ground plant, it will spread to a small mounded ground cover. Cuban oregano growing requirements are somewhat different than traditional oreganos, as they may burn in full sun and perform better in some light shade. How to Grow Cuban Oregano Choose a site with well-draining, gritty soil in partial sun for this little plant. It is frost tender but does well in tropical to semi-tropical areas year around. In temperate regions, grow the plant in a container and bring it indoors in fall. Cuban oregano does most of its growth in spring and summer and prefers hot, dry conditions. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need water, however. The plant needs regular irrigation but cannot survive consistently wet roots, which makes drainage especially important. Growing plants in containers makes it easier to accommodate Cuban oregano growing requirements by moving it as the seasonal sun gets hotter in certain areas of the garden. Some noon-day shade is required to prevent leaves from burning and ruining their appearance. The leaves may be dried and crushed to add to meat dishes. Fresh leaves, in small amounts, are used in soups and stews, and in stuffing for poultry and other meat. Be cautious, as the plant is very strongly flavored and can overpower other seasonings.”

Read more at Gardening Know How: Cuban Oregano Uses – How To Grow Cuban Oregano In The Garden: