Tomatoes failed me this summer. I had absolutely no luck growing them--an agrarian failure that could result in my being banished from New Jersey, so renown for this highly seasonal veggie.
My only solace is that my herbs thrived--basil, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram. Of those, the one that brings me a measure of pride is marjoram, since it’s a bit unusual.
I don’t cook frequently with marjoram, but some of my favorite seasonal recipes call for it. In the spring, before my plant shows any growth, I ask Jamie in Sickles’ produce department to order me a packet (you can do the same!) for two savory dishes that I serve at Easter, a ricotta tart and croxetti con sugo bianco (I just make the sauce; I buy the croxetti at Sickles). The herb’s sweet fragrance and sharp bite awaken the palate after the long slog of winter.
During the summer, fresh marjoram, typically used in Mediterranean cuisine, finds its way into corn soup and a Greek baked vegetable stew, a new addition to my repertoire. And there it is again in the winter, as my plant struggles to delay the ravages of frost, sprinkled onto sautéed kale.
But Venus pours gentle sleep over Ascanius’s limbs,
and warming him in her breast, carries him, with divine power,
to Idalia’s high groves, where soft marjoram smothers him
in flowers, and the breath of its sweet shade.
After reading this, aren’t you seduced to add “sweet shade” into your dishes?
If you are, keep in mind that a little marjoram goes a long way; overuse can result in food tasting like your grandmother’s floral soap. But measured use brings enchanting fragrance to your vegetable dishes.
Diana Pittet the cheesemonger with no green thumb.