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Harvesting Oregano 101

Hands snipping away at garden oregano with scissors

Harvesting Oregano

There’s nothing like finishing off a beautifully prepared meal with an aromatic herb that you plucked from your very own garden or indoor herb garden. Growing oregano, thyme, basil, or mint is a great way to elevate your regular recipes, and a great way to increase your gardening skills, too!

Gardening isn’t always the most straight forward thing and there are so many tips and tricks that you can learn along the way to keep a happy plant, and ultimately a happy belly!

Part of this process involves harvesting. Harvesting herbs can happen pretty much at any time, but did you know that there are certain times of the growing season and times of day that will ensure you have the tastiest aromatic herb possible?

This article is going to go through all the information you could possibly need about harvesting oregano, how to store it, ways to use oregano leaves, and other little fun tips and tricks. Welcome to Oregano for Dummies!

Beautiful fresh green leaves of the oregano plant

What is an Oregano Plant?

Oregano is a super popular Mediterranean herb that you can easily find in pretty much any grocery store or pantry. The most common variety is origanum vulgare, also known as common oregano.

This perennial herb is an awesome plant to grow in your herb garden for several reasons. It’s cold hardy down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s resistant to drought and loves sun exposure. It’s one of those herbs you can forget about for a little while and it’ll still thrive.

Oregano is recognized by its small, usually ovular, olive green leaves that are covered in fine hairs. Oregano leaves are chalk full of amazing essential oil that not only taste and smell delicious, but it’s very good for your health, too!

Depending on the species and variety of oregano, it can grow to be anything from a ground hugging rosette of leaves to a huge woody plant up to 4 feet in height! Growing oregano indoors is super easy to do, and it’ll be just as happy as an outdoor plant.

Since it is a Mediterranean perennial herb, you can guess that oregano likes to live in conditions that are super sunny, relatively dry, and with warm temperatures. This makes them a super low maintenance plant.

Is your oregano plant flowering? Learn how to proceed here!

What Tools should you use to Harvest Oregano?

Another reason why oregano plants are great to grow is because of how it is to harvest those amazing oregano leaves! You really don’t need much to collect the oregano sprigs.

You can get fancy with it and use some herb scissors, gardening shears, or a sharp knife. But at the end of the day, you could easily just walk by your herb garden and pinch away a handful of sprigs with your fingers!

It’s always a good idea to wash anything that you get out of the ground, so very gently rinse your harvested sprigs with a spray hose. We’ve got a full article on how to properly wash oregano here!

Beautiful growing oregano plant in the sunlight

When is the Best Time to Harvest Oregano?

Now for the reason that you’re here: how to properly harvest oregano! Though you can pretty much harvest oregano at any time once the plant is big enough to continue growing afterwards, there are certain times and methods to ensure you have a happy plant as well as the highest quality product.

Knowing when to harvest will help guarantee the most flavorful experience later on. Whether you’re planning on using fresh oregano or dry oregano, it is always going to be best to harvest in the late spring or early summer.

This is the perfect time because the plant has had enough of a growing season to get well established, but it isn’t quite time for the plant to flower yet. Once oregano flowers the leaves will decrease in essential oil, making them less flavorful and more bitter.

It is also a good idea to wait until the early morning to harvest oregano leaves. Wait until the morning dew has dried up, this is when the leaves will be most plump and full of moisture, resulting in the best tasting leaf.

Harvesting for Fresh Oregano

If you’re harvesting oregano to use the fresh leaves, make sure to only take as much as you need to use for a specific recipe. Fresh leaves don’t last super long in the fridge, so it’s better to be precise now so that you don’t waste later!

Look for a stem that has plenty of healthy, plump leaves and plenty of growth nodes, but one that hasn’t started to develop flower buds. The more tender the stem, the better tasting the leaves.

If you need a lot of oregano, don’t be nervous about cutting too much. You can cut the stems pretty much down to a couple inches and it will sprout right back up in a couple of weeks.

Harvesting for Dried Oregano

If you’re harvesting oregano because you’re planning on drying it, you can be super liberal with the snipping. You could cut down the entire thing and it’ll sprout back up in now time.

If you’re going to dry oregano, this is when it’s particularly important to wait for the healthiest plant possible. The flavor will become highly concentrated in the drying process, so the fresher the leaves the better it’ll taste when dried.

Curious about harvesting oregano seeds? Learn all about it here!

A close look at a small bottle of oregano essential oil.

How can you Use Harvested Oregano?

Fresh Oregano

Fresh oregano is an awesome culinary herb to have on hand, that’s why growing it indoors is such a good idea! This fresh herb adds an awesome kick of savory flavor and bitterness to so many different dishes.

It’s a great fresh herb to add to soups, stews, salads, pasta sauces, marinades, vinaigrettes, and dishes that are olive oil based. That’s why oregano is so popular in Mediterranean cuisine, because it pairs so nicely with olive oil dishes.

Dried Oregano

Dried oregano is also just as valuable as a culinary herb. Though it may not have that fresh aspect to it, it has a super intense flavor and fragrance that brings a whole other dimension to savory dishes.

Some people prefer using dry oregano because you can add it to a hot dish far earlier on in the cooking process and it won’t become wilted and brown like the fresh herb does.

We’ve got a full article on how to dry oregano here!

Essential Oil

If you really want to get into oregano, a great way to do so is by making your own essential oil. Oregano is a super herb and it can help with all sorts of ailments when it’s taken either topically or ingested.

Oregano is antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, and is brimming with antioxidants as well. It’s a very useful at-home wellness remedy to have on hand, and it’s been part of folk medicine practices for centuries!

Tiny bowl of dried oregano with fresh leaves on a wooden surface

How should you Store Oregano?

Though it may seem obvious, there are some tips and tricks when it comes to properly storing oregano as well! If you can extend the shelf life of the herb as long as possible, why not do it!

Storing Fresh Oregano

Fresh oregano leaves aren’t going to last a super long time any way, but there is a way to keep it for at least a week in the fridge before it starts to brown!

All you have to do is get an airtight container and line it with a dry paper towel. The paper towel will wick away any possible moisture build up which is what causes premature browning.

Storing Dry Oregano

Dry oregano on the other hand, can technically last in the pantry forever. Folks say that the best flavor will last 3-5 years, but this dried herb will still stay good for years after that.

The best way to store the dried leaves is by keeping them in a small airtight container, and storing it in a place that is dry and with a consistently cool temperature. The pantry or a cellar is the perfect place for that.

Freezing Oregano

Though I have never tried this method, some people swear by freezing their herbs. This is a way to keep them fresh for a long time in the freezer! You can make frozen oregano easily.

All you have to do is harvest as many oregano leaves as you’d like to freeze, mix it up with a small amount of olive oil, portion the mixture up into little containers (or a rubber ice cube tray for super easy access) and freeze it!

Frozen oregano can last in the freezer for a super long time, and it’s wonderful because it still manages to maintain that fresh flavor because olive oil is a natural preservative! Using the ice cube tray makes for super easy application, as you can just remove a single cube and pop it into your soup or stew as needed.

How to Care for a Harvested Oregano Plant

Sometimes gardeners get a little bit worried when it comes to harvesting their herbs, thinking that there’s a chance that they will take too much and the plant will suffer for it after.

While this can be the case when you’re foraging in the wild (take only what you need!) and other home grown plants, oregano is a wonderfully resilient and prolific herb that will just keep popping up no matter how much you snip away.

If you are feeling concerned, it never hurts to provide your plant with a little bit of light plant food fertilizer, mulch, or compost to give it a little boost on nutrients to get it going again.

Wondering how to grow oregano straight from seed? Learn all about it here!

A close look at a bunch of potted oregano plants.


Is it easy to grow oregano from seed?

Oregano is one of the easiest herbs you could try to grow from seed. All you need is a seed starting cell pack, some oregano seeds, some well draining soil, and a sunny window. You can either place an individual oregano seed in each cell, or 2-3 oregano seeds per cell.

Maintain soil moisture as the seedlings are getting developed by constant misting and even keeping a clear plastic bag over the seeds while they’re getting developed. An oregano seed will likely germinate in 10-15 days after planting.

Is Mexican oregano true oregano?

Mexican oregano is actually not a true oregano. Though it looks, tastes, smells, and is used in a very similar way to true oregano, it is part of the verbena family!

What is Cuban oregano?

Cuban oregano is a wonderful type of oregano, as the fresh leaves are more like succulent leaves than anything else. This culinary herb is best used fresh and it’s a super important ingredient in Cuban cuisine. It’s commonly used in soups, stews, and pots of beans. It is also used a lot in spicier sauces and salsas because the flavor of the oregano helps neutralize the spice!

What is the best type of potting soil for oregano plants?

The best type of potting soil to grow oregano in is going to be well draining and light. If you think about its natural growing range of the Mediterranean, the soil is going to be light, sandy, with wonderful drainage.

What is the most common oregano?

The most common type of oregano is Greek oregano/Italian oregano. Origanum vulgare is the species you will likely find in little jars in the grocery store or growing in a plant nursery. Italian oregano is commonly used in Italian cuisines to add flavor to soups, pasta sauces, and stews.

What is another term for oregano?

Oregano is very often referred to as wild marjoram.

What is the best time of year to plant oregano?

If you’re planning on growing oregano outdoors, it is important to wait until the last threat of frost has passed before you plant oregano. This is because the seeds are less likely to germinate if they’ve been exposed to cold temperatures. Once the plants are well established they are far more tolerant to cold.

Is an oregano flower edible?

Not everybody knows that the flowers your herbs produce are completely edible! In the case of oregano, the oregano flower is going to have a less punchy flavor and be a little bit more delicate, but it makes for a tasty and beautiful garnish for savory and sweet dishes alike.

What color is an oregano leaf?

An oregano leaf will vary slightly in color according to the species, but many will have an olive green color, whereas others will have more of a fresh forest green.

How long of a process is drying oregano?

If you’re planning on drying oregano there are a few methods to use. You can air dry the herb which will take 1-2 weeks, you can use a dehydrator which takes 4-5 hours, or you can oven dry which only takes a couple of hours.

Does oregano grow in North America?

Though naturally grown in the Mediterranean, oregano has become naturalized in many other continents across the globe including North America.

Is oregano oil good for you?

Oregano is a super herb and it can help with all sorts of ailments when it’s taken either topically or ingested. Oregano oil is known as being a super elixir!

Oregano is antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, and is brimming with antioxidants as well. It’s a very useful at-home wellness remedy to have on hand, and it’s been part of folk medicine practices for centuries!

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