Oregano Loses Flavor
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Yuan Yu
Posted on: June 18, 2003

I bought some oreganos, thymes, sages, and rosemary from Richters this spring. I planted them in containers on the balcony. Though my balcony gets only a half day of sunlight, all the herbs grow OK. (They would probably grow better if they could get full sun.) However, I feel that the oregano’s flavor is not as strong as when I just bought it. Is it losing flavor because of lacking enough sun light? Will other herbs lose or reduce their flavor, too?

Most of common culinary herbs such as oregano, thyme and basil owe their flavours and aromas to the essential oil content of the leaves. The essential oil content is affected by a variety of environmental factors. Light definitely has a lot to do with it: diminished light quantity, intensity or quality will reduce the numbers of oil glands in the leaves. Cool temperatures can likewise affect oil content. Even just a few cool, overcast days can cause a loss in aroma and flavour. Overfertilization, especially high nitrogen, will do the same. It is also true that the physiological state will affect oil content: plants close to flowering will be more intensely flavoured compared to younger plants; but in your case this is not the explanation because your plants had more flavour when they were younger.

If herb does reduce its flavor when lack of sun, will the change become permanent? I don’t have a better place to grow the herbs now. If I can move them to sunny location later, maybe next year, will the herb regain its strong flavor once the exposure improved?

Is the environmental effect on flavour permanent? No. Increasing sun exposure, warmer temperatures and less nitrogen fertilizer will help restore the flavour.

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