Cuban Oregano / Thyme: Culinary, Medicinal Uses and Nutrition
Cuban oregano or plectranthus amboinicus is an herbaceous tropical plant thought to have originated in India. This herb has traditional medicinal uses in Asian cultures, and is a culinary herb that rivals oregano and thyme for its robust, aromatic, similarity of flavor.
This perennial herb, known as Cuban oregano or Spanish thyme, has a similar taste and aroma to its namesakes, but is related to neither and is actually a member of the Lamiaceae or mint family. This herb has culinary uses, predominantly, in the cuisines of Cuba, India and the Philippines. The Leaves of Cuban oregano are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and are traditionally used in the ancient Ayurvedic medicine of India.
As with many plants, the botanical name of this herb plectranthus amboinicus gives us an indication as to its place of identification. In this case amboinicus refers to Ambon, a mountainous, fertile island located in the Maluku Islands near Indonesia. From there the plants propagation spread throughout the East Indies, Africa, and was eventually naturalized in Latin America by the Spanish, who named this herb ‘oregano de la Hoja Ancha‘. Cuban oregano can still be found growing wild in the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia, and because it is easy to grow, and can survive considerable neglect, it is a popular house plant found worldwide.
Cuban oregano is one of 350 plant species, of the Plectranthus genus, mostly grown as ornamental house plants. This herb has velvety textured leaves and small lavender flowers in spring and summer. Varieties to look out for, for the herb or kitchen garden include; Marble, Golden Ruffles, Silver Shield, Well-Sweep Wedgewood, and also attractive variegated types.
By Peter Bilton