Shakespeare knew his herbs, and characterized them in his work. In All?s Well that Ends Well, someone gives a compliment, describing another as, "the sweet marjoram of the salad, or rather the herb of grace." It is a delightful herb, at once sweet and savory. Use it in sauces, egg dishes, fish, poultry, and, as the Bard alludes, in salads.
Origanum majorana goes by several common names: sweet marjoram, garden marjoram, and annual marjoram. It is hardy only to USDA Zone 9 and rarely survives even mild winters. Plant seeds or purchase plants each spring. Sweet marjoram has an upright, bushy growth habit and can reach a foot in height. (Where perennial, it can reach 2 feet.)
Start the tiny seeds indoors under grow lights about 6 weeks before the last frost date in your region. Set out seedlings in full sun in slightly alkaline soil that's rich in organic matter. Place plants about 6 to 8 inches apart, or in clumps of two or three plants set 12 to 14 inches apart, and keep the soil slightly moist until they are growing vigorously. Pinch back stems to maintain a bushy growth habit. After each harvest, add 1 inch of compost in a 12-inch-wide band around the plants.
Harvest and Storage
When flowers appear, cut entire plants to stand 3 to 4 inches tall, and repeat as more flower buds appear. Use leaves fresh, and dry some for winter use. Leaves dry quickly and retain their flavor well. To dry, tie stems together and hang bunches upside down in a shady, dry, well-ventilated place. After drying, remove leaves from stems and store in an airtight container.