Looking for "Riganelli" (sp.?)
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Ann Bowyer
Posted on: March 25, 2001

I don’t know if you can help me, but I am looking for an herb that my grandmother grew faithfully in her garden and always used in her Italian cooking. I only knew it by the name of "Riganelli". I don’t even know if that is the correct spelling for the name. When my grandmother got sick and passed away no one in the family had a start of the plant. The only thing we had was the dried product and when it was all gone there was no more. I talked to some of the Italian storekeepers in Jamestown, New York, but to no avail. I was wondering if you could provide my any information. Thank you very much.

I checked several Italian sources for a herb with the name "riganelli" but nothing turned up. However, the name is similar to a Cretan name for one of the oreganos, "rigani", so that got me thinking that your plant is probably one of the many varieties of oregano. A search of the Internet turned up a site that specializes in Calebrese foods from the Calabria province of southern Italy. In the Calebrese dialect, "riganella" or "riganu" refers to the Italian "origano" or what we know as in English as "oregano".

There are many varieties of oregano, and your plant is likely to be one that is specific to Calabria. The Cretan "rigani" refers to what we know scientifically as Origanum onites. This species is very closely related to the more common forms of oregano, but is smaller, stronger-flavoured, and not as winter-hardy as the regular oregano. Richters carries two varieties that could be very close to what your grandmother grew: cretan oregano and Richters special variety, ‘Kaliteri’ oregano.

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