Thyme and Oregano for Market
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Laury Shea and Bob Hill
Posted on: January 26, 1999

We run a small organic farm in northern Vermont. Last year we sold bunches of thyme and oregano wholesale and at farmers’ markets. We would like to grow taller varieties that would be easier to cut and bunch. Last year we started our seeds in early March. We are considering buying plugs as well as trying succession planting. Could you give us some recommendations as to varieties? Also would you recommend plugs and starting seeds to achieve succession plantings?

In the case of oregano, there are a number of varieties that could be used, but much depends on what your market prefers. By far, the Greek oregano, Origanum vulgare hirtum, is the one most people in North America regard as the "true" oregano, possessing the typical hot spicy flavour and aroma of the vast majority of the imported dried oregano sold in North America. There are many other oreganos that are used for the same purposes; but these possess subtle or not-so-subtle differences in flavour that may or may not affect marketability to your clientele. If you are looking beyond our staple oregano, the greek variety, then you need to survey your clients for feedback. To be sure, these other varieties, such as cretan oregano, or Kaliteri oregano, are considered highly desirable by oregano afficinados, but nuances of flavour and aroma put them in a speciality category.

Greek oregano is a mix of low and tall forms. The low types are not well suited for bunching. However, if Kaliteri is acceptable for flavour and aroma, it will be better for bunching because it only grows upright. The disadvantage, however, is that Kaliteri is only available in plugs not seeds which means greater start up expenses.

For thyme, there are really only two culinary thymes of importance and they are english and french thyme, both of which are forms of Thymus vulgaris, the common garden thyme. French is a slower growing, more fragile variety (though more fragrant), which leaves english thyme as the only alternative for fresh-cutting and bunching.

If you decide on greek oregano and english thyme, then you can start your own plugs, sowing every 4 weeks for a succession of plantings through the season. Buying plugs is another option depending on whether your budget has room for the higher cost.

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