Unexpected oregano flavor

WarrenSenseiJuly 9, 2014

Ok, I've got a puzzle for you all as my first post on the site!

We've been growing herbs in our front yard in three raised beds for a few years, though have been fairly lazy about it. however, I'm not asking about weed problems - we know we're bad about keeping up with that. The puzzling problem came last night when we went out to grab some of the oregano for some pasta sauce, the first use of the season.

The oregano tasted strongly of oregano like it should... and was as spicy as a habanero! Ok, not quite, but way spicier than a jalapeno, AND it left a numb feeling for several minutes that I don't normally experience even with hot peppers directly. It wasn't really pleasant (especially that numbness) and was actually far too spicy for some of the family members for us to dare putting it in the sauce for the oregano flavor.

Now, we had at one point planted a few capsicum plants in that bed as well, but had never really had much success with them. A few good peppers, sure, but only so-so in quality/size/flavor. We hardly pay any attention to them anymore.

We have a couple of theories, but not sure of the logic of them:
1) Soil contamination from the pepper plants: capsaicin being leached into the soil from the pepper plants and then being absorbed by the herbs.
2) Accidental cross-breeding: if the long-ignored plants have spawned a terrifying pepper-oregano hybrid we should burn and run away from before it rises up to kill its masters.
3) Chemical contamination: the beds are only about 6ft from the road. Far enough that the snow banks don't press into them in the odd New England winters. However, it's close enough that perhaps something could have gotten intentionally or unintentionally sprayed that far and contaminated the soil or the surfaces. There's no obvious chemical taste/smell/feel, but I suppose it's still something to consider.

Anyone have an idea as to 1) why this happened or 2) how we can undo it?

Thank you!
~Warren Huber

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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

"We have a couple of theories, but not sure of the logic of them:
1) Soil contamination from the pepper plants: capsaicin being leached into the soil from the pepper plants and then being absorbed by the herbs.
2) Accidental cross-breeding: if the long-ignored plants have spawned a terrifying pepper-oregano hybrid we should burn and run away from before it rises up to kill its masters."

These two theories are completely illogical. Peppers don't leach capsicum and peppers and oregano cannot cross. Your third theory is doubtful as well.

Do you know exactly what type of oregano you are growing?

Rodney

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 10:53AM
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CA Kate

I actually asked this same question about ten years ago. I also had an oregano that was quite spicy... as well as having a definite oregano taste. It was suggested that I had a different variety... like Greek Oregano. I never did find out what variety it was, but we enjoyed cooking with it for several years.

Enjoy your treasure.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 9:49PM
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subtropix

I use Greek Oregano all the time. Never, have I found it to be comparable in spice to a chile pepper, least of all a habanero! Greek Oregano is often called Spicy Oregano, but you should not be experiencing it that profoundly. Are you sure you are not experiencing some kind of allergic reaction due to the potency of this variety of oregano. If it is just a question of being unfamiliar with its potency, just use less of it in you food.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 7:03AM
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gvozdika(8 OR)

Warren, I bet you ate a leaf :) It can be quite an experience :) It works better chopped in food.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 11:16PM
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HotHabaneroLady(7a Central MD)

There is a variety of oregano called hot & spicy oregano. It's a cultivar of Greek oregano. It is my favorite oregano. To me it tastes like a strong oregano with a hint of black pepper, but some other people do describe it as tasting like a combination of oregano and a hot pepper. Is it possible that you have a hot & spicy oregano plant?

Angie

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 10:12PM
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