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Marjoram - Does it taste funny to you?

About 4 years ago the BF and i were at an "upscale" restaurant (for the area we were in) for a NYE dinner. I can't even remember the dish, but at the first bite we simultaneously looked up at each other in disgust. It tasted like mold. We called the waiter over, and asked what herbs were used in the dish (it wasn't a dish that would "likely" accidentally have mold - not cheese, not mushrooms). He went and checked with the kitchen and said marjoram and thyme. We told him the seasoning tasted strongly of mold. The waiter said something about the combination of these herbs were supposed to taste like this. He also quite ridiculously told us that we must have "similar palates" - um, yeah, our ultra-refined palates can detect mold!

A few months ago, had a pizza at one of my absolute favorite upscale pizza places in the Bay Area - went with a chef friend - and that was the first time neither of us absolutely loved their pizza. listed on the menu for that pizza - marjoram. Yesterday I bought some homemade soup from a local vendor - a mushroom cream - and the first sip brought back that same musty, moldy memory of that NYE dinner! BF tried it too - same reaction. I'm pretty sure it had marjoram in it.

So ok, maybe we just really dislike marjoram - but is it really supposed to taste.... moldy? i've never had fresh, is that any better? Is it like cilantro, where some people experience the taste as soapy and others don't?

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  1. Interesting question, mc. Marjoram is related to oregano, so - at least to me - it tastes very similar to oregano, if not more intense. It goes *really* well with chicken dishes, and one of my favorite pasta dishes is farfalle with shrimp, zucchini, a little cream, and a good amount of fresh, chopped marjoram. Who knows, you may hate it '-)

    4 Replies
    1. re: linguafood

      I've been growing it for a number of years now, and that's kind of how I tend to think of it: like oregano, but better (even floral, perhaps, like Krislady says below). I love it, and put it to use in a number of applications from sauces, to meatballs, to grilled fish and chicken, even homemade pizzas.

      Maybe the offending culprit is either dried or is a lass fragrant variety of marjoram.

      1. re: linguafood

        Oooh, marjoram is an herb I haven't used much in the past unless specifically called for in a recipe. I absolutely love oregano...fresh, dried, powedered, crushed. Love it, and use it in lots of stuff. I am going to get acquainted with marjoram, sounds like I will love it!

        1. re: jlhinwa

          I have to say I LOVE oregano - and HATE marjoram even though they are somewhat similar. I do find that marjoram has a "musty" flavour that I find thoroughly unpleasant. I am using them dried, not fresh so that may be a factor. But I am definitely not about to run out and try fresh marjoram, based on how I feel about the dry stuff. Blech.

          1. re: Ferdzy

            aha! ONE CHOWHOUND who sensed the same thing i did! Thanks for the validation! ( : although, i think i am going to try with some fresh, since all my other fellow CHers can't be all wrong!

      2. I find it tastes very flowery - floral, I guess I mean. I don't think I've ever had it dried, though - only fresh. I've only recently started using it regularly - the past two or three years, I've put it in my herb garden. It seems to me almost like tarragon - not flavor-wise, but that it's a very distinctive taste, and a little bit goes a long way, and too much would definitely be off-putting.

        Not that any of that helps you, does it?

        1. I don't like either oregano or marjoram in anything. I can't remember if I thought of it as mold-like, it's been so long.

          1. No. I associate marjoram with northern European sausages. In Sweden, it's associated with Christmas, when it's used to season ham, as well as meatballs and sausage. I'd describe it as having a pleasant, kind of dusty herbal taste that specifically enhances pork. That's dried marjoram.

            It's been a while since I've used it fresh, but I definitely don't remember a mold flavor. If it tastes like mold to you, maybe that is an individual reaction, like the cilantro phenomenon.

            1. Hmmm, interesting.

              I too grow marjorum year round, and use it pretty often. Usually in a recipe that calls for oregano, but I want it to be more fragrant and use the marjorum. I use mine both fresh and dried (tied in bundles, hanging from the kitchen ceiling).

              I've never come across any moldy tastes or anything off putting. Perhaps what you had was fesh when purchased, but maybe wasn't dried out properly, causing some spoilage or mold?

              You got me on this one!

              1. Marjoram tastes very soapy to me. I haven't had it on its own in a very long time as the flavor is extremely strong, iirc.

                1. All very helpful, everyone, thanks! I've actually never tried cooking with it fresh. And I do think, Krislady, that in the few times i've mentioned it must have been too much in the dish. I assumed i was eating dry, but who knows? Jungmann, i do get that soapy taste too, but really, it was more moldy. however, i have to say, after i posted this last night, the BF and i did a taste test - i had some (very old) dried marjoram, and i tasted it on its own and mixed with thyme, and then with tarragon. even being old, on its own it was fine - as some of you noted, a little stronger or more floral than oregano (which as linguafood said, is a relative) - but not terrible, and not moldy. i could even imagine putting some on a big beefsteak tomato with olive oil, vinegar and kosher salt and loving it. the combo of herbs tasting didn't offend either. So, yeah, maybe those 3 times I had either bad marjoram, or a stronger variety, or who knows. i'm going to try making something with fresh soon.... must power thru - can't leave a whole herb out of my repertoire, now can i? thanks again, all.

                  1. I grow two forms of marjoram and use it when recipes specify fresh oregano without any problem (our climate isnt suitable for growing oregano).

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Harters

                      Not to sidetrack the thread but - you really can't grow oregano? I grow it here in Boston where we get much colder than you (lots of snow) and it even grows perennially, coming back every spring.

                      1. re: BobB

                        Certainly not as a perennial - I suspect it's the wet rather than the cold that does for it.

                        Our climate does seem to be changing so perhaps it may be worth giving it another try. Warmest April here since records started to be kept.

                        1. re: Harters

                          Oregano seems to need relatively dry growing conditions with plenty of heat and strong sun to develop good flavor. Even if you plant oregano in a spot with very good drainage, you may not be happy with the flavor you get in England but would be able to overwinter it.

                          I have quit growing oregano in my garden in Chicago, which is about 2 1/2 miles from Lake Michigan, because the flavor is sort of blah.

                          1. re: Eldon Kreider

                            How odd. I'm only a couple of miles from Lake Ontario, and my oregano is quite good. Perhaps it's the variety?

                            Also, I'm not sure quite how one would quit growing oregano? Mine seems to have challenged the tarragon for title of King of the Herb Garden. I don't think I could stop growing it if I tried. . .

                            1. re: Krislady

                              Microclimate and soil can be very important here. If I had a south-facing site in full sun and added a lot (40 percent or more by volume) of sand to the clay soil, the results might be different. I have used both Greek and Italian varieties with equally blah results. There is still a fair Greek population nearby, so a local store has good turnover in relatively cheap dried Greek oregano on the stem. My flavor bar is set high.

                        2. re: BobB

                          Me too - every spring, my oregano and my tarragon both come back like crazy - while marjoram won't winter over here so I have to start over every stupid year.

                          1. re: Krislady

                            Interesting. I just replaced my marjoram last weekend, but both the oregano and tarragon from last summer are coming back just swimmingly.
                            Wonder why?

                            1. re: rabaja

                              It seems to be somewhat random. My oregano, thyme and sorrel have been coming back reliably every year for ages. Marjoram, tarragon and rosemary, never, I always have to replant. Cilantro spread like crazy for a couple of years, then didn't come back at all. And the mint, of course, tries to take over the universe and requires major culling every spring, then behaves itself for the rest of the growing season.

                              1. re: rabaja

                                Sweet marjoram is normally classified as an annual while oregano and tarragon are perennials. Cilantro (aka coriander) is an annual but self-seeds quite well if allowed to go to seed. Even if you are trying to harvest the seeds for cooking, enough will fall off to start new plants both the same year and likely the next year.

                        3. I changed to using marjoram (from using oregano) several years ago, after seeing a recipe for seasoning in a spaghetti sauce(s), Perhaps it was Mario Batali,or Tyler Florence, I can't recall exactly.

                          Your posting reminds me that I used to really like rosemary, and just can't stand using it anymore owing to: of Musty and Moldy. Rosemary grown in my garden and dried rosemary by a woman at the local Farmers Market present the same attributes.

                          Perhaps it could be 'rosemary' instead of marjoram. Just a thought.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Rella

                            hmmm, no, because i used rosemary all the time, fresh and dried. but thanks!

                            1. re: Rella

                              Having grown up in a Southern Italian family where parsely and basil were the only fresh herbs used, oregano was always used dry off the stalk and sparingly as a sharp, fragrant counter accent to tomato salads, grilled dishes, pizzaiolo sauce, and the like. I also can't take fresh marjoram (soapy is a good word) for some reason, though the Genovese use it fairly liberally. Rosemary, too, I think, needs to be used very strategically: perhaps only with grilled meats, poultry, and with Italian white beans.

                            2. i'm fascinated by your experiences, mc! i personally think that marjoram is often overwhelmingly floral, sweet or soapy (it has a quality that reminds me of lavender)...but never moldy. i greatly prefer the sharper, peppery, piney/green flavor of oregano...but THAT can definitely taste moldy or musty to me if it's past its prime.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                who knows what i'm tasting! the pizza experience, however, taught me i definitely don't like TOO much marjoram on something. i'm going to have to try cooking with it, just a little at a time.

                              2. "We called the waiter over, and asked what herbs were used in the dish (it wasn't a dish that would "likely" accidentally have mold - not cheese, not mushrooms). He went and checked with the kitchen and said marjoram and thyme. We told him the seasoning tasted strongly of mold"

                                I would say it's the thyme. Sometimes thyme, especially dried thyme, can taste very earthy, which is a shared flavor of mold.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: TheTinCook

                                  i use thyme regularly, probably more than any other herb, and have never encountered that flavor. the mystery continues!

                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                    Mold forming on herbs while they are drying is not uncommon. A small amount mixed in with a bunch of marjoram (or rosemary as mentioned above) might not be obvious to most and completely unnoticable to many. Perhaps you have an increased sensitivity to the taste/scent of mold and are therefore more easily put off by it.

                                    1. re: MGZ

                                      hmmmm.... maybe this is it... thanks.

                                2. I love marjoram! a tad soapy and a lot of flavor, I keep it going here at the house because I enjoy getting a nose hit from it even if I"m not going to use it

                                  1. I love fresh marjoram, never have seen the use of using dried.

                                    I really fell for it two years ago when trying a Lexpatty dish for bone-in chicken breast with marjoram and onions off of epicurious. I've posted the link here about four times, I love it so much.

                                    A little certainly goes a long way, as it is quite floral.

                                    I just replaced the marjoram that died in my herb pot over the winter and I am so excited to enjoy the full growing season this year. I planted oregano as well, but I just love that marjoram.

                                    Which pizzeria did you have the bad experience at? I have a hard time imagining they were using dried, which is why I ask.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: rabaja

                                      Pizzaiolo - i am not sure if they used dried or fresh (I agree, fresh would make more sense, they have their own garden in the back), but either way, it was way overpowering.

                                      I remember your posting about the chicken (whatever happened to lexpatty?), and I've always thought about trying it out and just dispelling myself of this marjoram myth! next time i see some fresh, i'll buy it.

                                    2. I had a similar experience at an Italian restaurant the other day on a chicken dish. My mom, my bf and I all tasted and were repulsed by it. My mom and I at once recongnized a moldy taste coming from the seasoning. I will have to try out marjoram myself to see if it was the culprit. But it gave me the same strange sense in my nose and taste on my tongue as I experienced when our city water was overrun with algae a while back. I use a water purifier at my place, and so was not exposed to the straight tap water until visiting a restaurant which served it. I was of course sickened by the moldy taste and aroma of the water and was shocked to find that none of my friends noticed it until I said something and the waiter said no one else had complained. I could even taste it through the fountain drinks. Perhaps we just have a well evolved mold-o-meter! ;)

                                      1. I know this is an old thread, but I feel like I have been vindicated after many battles with my hubby and mother in law. Any kind of thyme tastes like mold to me. I despise it. But I guess it's like cilantro, which tastes fine to me...

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Siobhan

                                          and now that you've resurrected the thread....

                                          i've come to feel that dried herbs in general - especially marjoram, but now thyme and rosemary too - smell/taste like mold to me. maybe it's what MGZ said above... but i can only use fresh versions of these three herbs now. any time i add the dried to a dish, it's all i can taste - mold!

                                          1. re: mariacarmen

                                            Funny to see this thread pop up. I just made that chicken with marjoram again last night. With fresh,from the herb pot.

                                            1. re: rabaja

                                              i know rabaja, noticed that! if i ever get some fresh marjoram, i'll try it.

                                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                                One of my favorite dishes with fresh marjoram is farfalle with shrimp and peas (or zukes) in a cream sauce. The marjoram takes it to the next level :-)

                                        2. I hate cilantro bcz it tastes soapy to me but I like fresh marjoram

                                            1. dry powered herbs esp sage taste like dirt or mold to me. I will not use any ground herbs. Ginger, clove.. sure. Ive tried marjoram twice and thought it was more like tarragon then oregano. I am greek and put oregano in everything lol but hate the marjoram I've tasted. odd there related.