Herbs have been cultivated for centuries for both culinary and medicinal uses. Most of us are familiar with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, but what is dittany of Crete? Read on to learn more.
What is Dittany of Crete?
Dittany of Crete (Origanum dictamnus) is also referred to as Eronda, Diktamo, Cretan dittany, hop marjoram, wintersweet, and wild marjoram. Growing dittany of Crete is an herbaceous perennial that grows wild on the rocky faces and gorges that make up the island of Crete – a multi-branched, 6 to 12 inch (15-30 cm.) herb with round, soft fuzzy grey leaves emanating from slender arching stems. The white, down-covered leaves highlight the 6- to 8-inch (15-46 cm.), pale pinkish purple flower stalks, which bloom during the summer. The flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and make lovely dried flower arrangements.
Dittany of Crete has played an important part in Greek Mythology, as a medicinal herb through medieval times, and as a perfume and flavoring for drinks such as vermouth, absinthe and Benedictine liqueur. Flowers are dried and brewed into an herbal tea for all sorts of ailments. It also adds a unique nuance to foods and is often combined with parsley, thyme, garlic and salt and pepper. The herb is lesser known in North America, but still cultivated in Embaros and other areas south of Heraklion, Crete.
History of Dittany of Crete Plant
Historically ancient, dittany of Crete plants have been around since Minoan times and utilized for everything from a cosmetic hair and skin treatment to a medicinal salve or tea for digestive problems, healing of wounds, easing childbirth and rheumatism and even to cure snake bites. Charlemagne lists it in his medieval itemization of herbs, and Hippocrates recommended it for a plethora of disorders of the body.
Dittany of Crete plants symbolize love and are said to be an aphrodisiac and have long been given by young men to their lovers as a representation of their deep desire. Harvesting dittany of Crete is a risky endeavor, as the plant favors precarious rocky environs. One of the many names given to dittany of Crete is Eronda, meaning “love” and the young lovers searching for the herb are called ‘Erondades’ or love seekers.
Goats wounded by an arrow were said to seek wild growing dittany of Crete. According to Aristotle, in his treatise “The History of Animals,” the ingestion of dittany of Crete herbs would expel the arrow from the goat — and logically from a soldier as well. Dittany of Crete herbs are also mentioned in Virgil’s “Aeneid,” in which Venus heals Aeneas with a stalk of the herb.
In Greek mythology, it was said that Zeus gave the herb to Crete as a thank you gift and was used by Aphrodite. Artemis was often crowned with a wreath of dittany of Crete and the herb’s name is said to have been derived from the Minoan goddess Diktynna. To this day, wild dittany of Crete herbs are prized and protected by European law.
How to Grow Dittany and Cretan Dittany Care
Dittany of Crete can be grown in USDA growing zones 7 to 11 in full sun exposure. The plant can be propagated by seed in the early spring or by division in spring or fall. Seed germination takes about two weeks in a greenhouse. Plant the herb outside in early summer in containers such as hanging baskets, rockeries, or even as a green roof.
You may also take basal cuttings in summer when the shoots are 8 inches (20 cm.) above ground. Pot them into individual containers and place them in a cold frame or greenhouse until the root system has matured, then plant them outside.
Dittany of Crete is not particular about its soil but does prefer dry, warm, well-drained soil that is slightly alkaline. Once the herb has established itself, it will need very little water.
Growing Oregano: How to Plant, Grow, and Take Care of Oregano
Ame lives off-the-grid on her beautiful farm in Falmouth, Kentucky. She has been gardening organically for over 30 years and has grown vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, and ornamentals. She also participates in Farmers Markets, CSA, and mentors young farmers. Ame is the founder and director of Fox Run Environmental Education Center where she teaches environmental education programs in self-sufficiency, herbal medicine, green building, and wildlife conservation.
As legend has it, Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, planted oregano on Mt. Olympus. As a result, oregano became a symbol of love, which is why it’s often used in Greek and Italian weddings. I think that’s fitting, given that growing oregano is a joy. It makes a pretty addition to the garden, and it’s indispensable in cooking.
Oregano is well known as a staple in Mediterranean sauces, especially those that are tomato based. My paternal grandparents both immigrated as young children from Italy in the early 1900s, so I was raised on delicious Italian dishes that featured oregano.
My grandmother used to make delightful oregano-herbed rolls. Oregano also works nicely with meat dishes such as baked fish and grilled lamb, and in vegetable entrees like baked zucchini.
Oregano has olive colored leaves and produces spikey purple flowers on taller varieties. Smaller plants often have flowers in whorls. The stems and leaves may be covered with a wooly looking fuzz. No matter what kind of flowers they have, all oregano plants attract bees and butterflies.
Cretan Dittany Care - How To Grow Dittany Of Crete Plants - garden
A new culinary concept has been developed to praise ancient and modern uses of exclusive Mediterranean ingredients, focusing the world׳s attention in a region: Crete, Greece. We reviewed the vernacular names, medicinal properties and traditional uses of the Dittany of Crete (local endemic of the island of Crete, Greece) and we explored the possibility of cooking different dishes. We developed a novel concept which resulted in the culinary use of the infusion, the leaves and/or inflorescences of this perennial herb in modern sweet and savoury dishes of Mediterranean cuisine (five case-studies are described and illustrated). Our study expands the use of a unique and beneficial herb (Origanum dictamnus) rendering it as a new spicy ingredient suitable for gastronomic experimentation. The promotion of new uses for this traditionally used medicinal plant (currently cultivated only at small scale on the island of Crete) (i) offers new ingredients to international gastronomy, (ii) may prove to be beneficial for local economies, and (iii) supports sustainable plant exploitation.
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Origanum dictamnus (Lamiaceae family), an endemic plant of the Greek island of Crete, is widely used as a traditional medicine since antiquity, in Greece and all over Europe. The present review, summarises comprehensive information of the plant's botanical taxonomy and morphology, its chemical constituents as well as bioactivities and pharmacological properties.
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Dittany also makes a nice addition to rock gardens or ornamental beds that are on the dry side. Its round, very fuzzy gray leaves are the perfect canvas for the many 6 to 8 inch flower stalks that appear in summer. The shrub above is just getting ready to burst into bloom. It died back over the winter and spent early spring getting taller and forming buds.
Dittany of Crete makes a great addition to our Crafter's Herb Garden.
Height: 6 Inches
in Zones 7-11
Flower Color: Pink
Characteristics: Full Sun,
Origanum Species, Dittany of Crete
|Family:||Lamiaceae (lay-mee-AY-see-ee) (Info)|
|Genus:||Origanum (or-RI-ga-num) (Info)|
|Species:||dictamnus (dik-TAM-nus) (Info)|
Tropicals and Tender Perennials
Drought-tolerant suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)
Where to Grow:
Suitable for growing in containers
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Soil pH requirements:
From hardwood heel cuttings
Allow cut surface to callous over before planting
From seed sow indoors before last frost
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
On Mar 28, 2013, NicoleC from Madison, AL (Zone 7b) wrote:
I expected it to spread out like oregano's do, but if it does, it does so very slowly. I've had mine for a year outdoors in a sunny, well drained spot and while it was cute in the pot at the nursery, it only marginally increased in size over the summer and in winter/spring it's a little ratty.
Perhaps it need more arid climates to thrive.
On Feb 10, 2013, vossner from East Texas,
United States (Zone 8a) wrote:
Rating neutral as new in my garden. It will be planted as trailer in a hanging basket and I will position it protected from the sun. Has lovely velvety foliage, I do not detect any fragrance.
On Nov 30, 2006, podster from Deep East Texas, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:
I dearly love the fragrance of the foliage and the beauty of the flower. This is a difficult plant at best with our heat and humidty. It is delightful. I will keep trying and if I can only grow it as an annual, I will!
On Jun 22, 2005, CatskillKarma from West Kill, NY wrote:
I have a pot with three of these that I have overwintered indoors for two winters now. It doesn't like being inside, and gets leggy, but a severe pruning in spring before going outdoors is all that's needed to get it going again. The first winter, I didn't take it indoors until after frost had caused dieback, but it did come back in low light on a sunny groundlevel window sill in my basement. The bracts are charming and the flowers are popular with my hummingbirds. It drapes nicely and smells good--like marjoram--when brushed. I keep it on the handrail of the outdoor stairs to my kitchen. Not ideal for culinary use because of the furriness of the leaves, but that fuzz is very appealing visually.
On Jun 21, 2005, PurplePansies from Deal, NJ (Zone 7a) wrote:
Don't know much (just planted) about this plant yet but it has the loveliest fuzzy grey/green foliage and a creeping habit. It has a strong aroma that smells basically exactly like oregano (greek and or italian). Said to get pretty bract/flower (like hops) mine haven't bloomed yet. I'm hoping it is hardy in my zone. Some sources say 7 some say 8 . Said to love well drained (dry gritty) soil.
On May 2, 2005, ladyannne from Merced, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:
Unusual and delicate delight for a hanging basket with afternoon sun. Still trying to propagate this one with both seeds and layering but no luck yet.
On Jun 10, 2004, marshtackie from Orlando, FL wrote:
I love it dearly it reminds me of Crete. (Even in Crete, they say "But you know, you can only get really good dhiktamos in the Samaria Gorge / the White Mountains / &c." In other words, not in the lowlands.)
In Crete it is used as a medicinal tea and never as a food flavoring, no doubt because of the hairy leaves--but I've used it in spaghetti sauces.
It comes from a hot, dry climate and it doesn't like hot, wet climates (such as mine, Central Florida). I've managed to keep a plant growing in a pot for a year and a half at best. Keep it under an eave facing the sun but not exposed to the rain. In the village of Kritsa in eastern Crete, I saw a humongous plant blooming in a large pot and thriving. Whoever said they resented pots musta been wrong.
On Sep 8, 2003, CarolynnKoi from Orland, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:
I grew this plant at Paradise, California (U.S.) in the early 1990's and found it a most beautiful cascading subject that was winter hardy to zone 8, (I think.)
I have recently found plants available at a local nursery, but the foliage is smooth rather than tomentose like my original plants which I had to move away from. They did not appreciate being on level ground since they love to cascade.
This plant is very old medicinal herb, a real panacea mentioned by Plinius and many others. It is endemic on Dicti Mountains on Crete, some believe dicti = dictamnus (tamnus or thamnos = small bush).
It belonged to European Farmacopea until the 1770ґs, when it was substituted by the other Dictamnus, the reason being this herb became extremly rare. Now it is cultivated on the island, it is considered as the most effective local remedy for almost everything (sore throat, cough, menstrual pains, aching stomach, hypertensive, diuretic, helps at child birth, cures wounds, etc.) It is sold almost in every local "supermarket" to be sipped as a herbal tea. And it is one of the herbs in Benedictine liquer.
Have been growing this on Crete, but it is not . read more easy in pots. Beautiful plant with hairy grayish leaves and hanging rose flowers.
On Aug 26, 2002, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:
Extremely beautiful herb. Foliage is whorled, cobwebby-soft, very fragrant. Flowers are airy spikes of varied shades of pink that remain for months. They are easy to cut and dry for everlasting arrangements also. Plant can be overwintered indoors in cold climates, but it really isn't a houseplant.
Buy Cretan dittany – What to pay attention to?
If you buy Cretan dittany pay attention to the botanical name. The far more frequently offered dittany is mostly burning bush (Dictamnus albus). This dittany is a beautiful to look at ornamental plant, which is advised against its use due to toxic components. The original Cretan dittany bears the botanical name Origanum dictamnus. Incidentally, the plant is rarely to be purchased in the specialist plant trade, but finished plants are available from a few online retailers as well as specialized herb traders. The prices are about 5 to 7 EUR / $.
Cretan dittany as a tea herb is relatively rare to find. Some herbalists and online retailers offer the herb , sometimes also available as Cretan tea or mountain tea Diktamo. Since the tea, however, due to its versatile healing properties, sometimes has high demand, it is also relatively expensive. The 100 gram (3.5 oz) packs are available for between 7 and 20 EUR / $. 100 grams are enough for about 50 tea portions.