Simon & Garfunkel missed an important ingredient when they were writing about parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme: oregano! Oregano is an essential herb when it comes to savory cooking, and everyone probably already has it in their pantry.
Homegrown herbs are a great way to ensure that you always have fresh herbs on hand that you can quickly add to any dish. But sometimes the homegrown herbs grow so well that you have more than you know what to do with!
This is where knowing different methods of home food preservation comes in handy. The quickest and best way to preserve oregano is going through some method of a drying process.
This article is going to go through a little bit of information about oregano plants, how they are used, how to properly harvest, wash, and dry oregano, and then some ways in which you can use dried oregano! So buckle up and get ready to learn all you possibly could about drying oregano!
Are you curious about growing oregano indoors? We’ve got you covered!
What is an Oregano Plant?
Oregano is a hardy, perennial herb that comes from the Mediterranean region. The most common species of oregano is origanum vulgare, which is the one you’re most likely to find in the grocery store or garden nursery.
Oregano is a smaller herb, only growing to be a few inches up to 2 feet in height. They bear small, ovular shaped leaves that are olive green in color and sometimes covered in a light layer of fuzz.
Oregano herbs tend to be happiest when they are growing in USDA growing zones 4 through 10. They like to receive direct sunlight exposure for the majority of the day, and it is best to grow it in light, well draining soil. Allow it to dry out completely between watering.
When is the Best Time for Harvesting Oregano?
Oregano leaves have a super intense flavor and fragrance to them all the time even on their bad days, but there is a certain time of year and time of day for harvesting oregano to ensure they have the most flavor possible!
Technically, you can harvest oregano as soon as the true leaves are fully developed, but it is said that they start to taste their absolute best once the flower buds have started to develop, which usually happens in the mid to late summer.
Once this time of year arrives, you can either use your fingers or a sharp pair of scissors to cut away the sprigs that you need for cooking or drying. If you want to the plant to keep on growing, make sure to leave some sprigs behind!
The reason behind oregano’s amazing flavor and scent is the essential oil that the leaves contain. The oils within the plant are usually at their pick in the morning before the heat of the day comes, so it’s always best to pick your oregano sprigs around then!
Should you Wash Oregano Before Drying it?
No matter what you’re cooking, it is always a good idea to wash your fruit, vegetable, meat, or herb before using it. Whether you are growing oregano in your own garden or you purchase it from the grocery store, washing it will help ensure you aren’t accidentally consuming any bacteria.
When it comes to washing oregano, there is a specific method you can use in attempt to not damage the oregano sprig and accidentally send all of those delicious leaves down the drain!
Place all of your harvested oregano and lay it on a paper towel. Then, take your sprigs and ideally use a spray nozzle to gently wash the leaves. Hold the stalk upside down with the leaves directed downwards and very gently use your hand to brush away any dirt.
Next, take the oregano stalk and shake it just enough to remove any excess water, and lay it back down on the paper towel. Oregano stalks are great as a fresh herb, but if you plan on making dry oregano, you’ll want to do it as soon as possible before the essential oils fade away.
We’ve got a full article on how to properly wash oregano here!
How do you Dry Oregano?
You’re probably a great gardener, so this means that you have a surplus of fresh herbs that you may not know what to do with! This is when knowing how to preserve herbs comes in handy.
The drying process can be achieved in 3 different ways. Each method varies in the amount of time that it takes and the amount of energy consumed in order to dry the herbs.
Natural drying is the drying process that is the most time consuming, but it takes up absolutely no energy and it’s the most cost effective as well. Plus, it will create a lovely wafting aroma throughout the house.
All you have to do is take your oregano bundles, gather them together, and tie some twine around the stem. Hang the bundles upside down in an area that is drafty and receives direct sunlight.
Keep your oregano bundles like this and you’ll have perfectly dry oregano leaves in anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks time.
Dehydrating oregano is a super fast method, but it does mean that you have to have a dehydrator in the first place. If you are interested in home food preservation in general, it would be a great investment!
All you have to do is take your oregano sprigs and place them on a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Make sure the the sprigs aren’t touching one another, and place the cookie sheet in the dehydrator on the lowest setting for 6-18 hours.
Oven drying is a great drying process if you don’t have fancy appliances, but you also don’t feel like waiting forever for your oregano to dry. But remember, this method requires the most amount of energy.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place your oregano sprigs along it, but ensuring that they aren’t touching one another. Set the oven to 180 degrees Fahrenheit and leave it in for 2-4 hours.
It’s also a good idea to leave the oven door open ever so slightly so that the extra air circulation will help get ride of any excess moisture on the plants. You should have bundles of dry herbs in no time at all.
How should you Store Dried Oregano?
Once you have successfully dried all of the oregano, it’s now time to properly store it! This can be done in several different ways. The first step is to remove all of the leaves. This can easily be done by placing the sprigs in a paper bag and shaking it vigorously until all of the leaves have fallen off.
From here, you can decide if you’d like to grind up the oregano leaves in a mortar and pestle and use it like a spice, or you can keep the dried leaves in an airtight container.
An airtight container like a mason jar is a great way to ensure that no excess moisture can get in the container, allowing the dried herb to stay viable for many months, sometimes years.
How can you use Dried Oregano?
Oregano is a super popular herb that is used in so many different cultures of cuisine around the world. It is primarily an herb that is used for savory dishes, and you will often taste it in pizza sauce, pasta sauce, vinaigrettes, meat marinades, and olive oil based dishes.
What is Mexican oregano?
Though Mexican oregano smells and looks very similar to true oregano, it actually is not part of the mint family like oregano is, but it’s part of the verbena family. It is common for certain herbs to share the same common name even if they aren’t from the plant family. In the case of oregano, both true oregano and Mexican oregano are used in a very similar fashion.
What is Greek oregano?
Greek oregano is one of the more popular and common oregano types, and it is known as being the “true” oregano. It is the one you will likely find in the grocery store or growing at the garden centre, and you’ve certainly tasted it in an Italian sauce, greek salad, or in a chicken marinade.
Is fresh oregano or dried oregano more flavorful?
Because fresh oregano is still chalk full of those yummy essential oils, it is going to have a far more robust flavor and aroma to it. Though dried oregano is still very powerful, it doesn’t have that same punchy freshness.
What does an oregano leaf look like?
An oregano leaf is commonly very small and ovular in shape. It will be olive green or dark green and color and is usually covered in small hairs. They are oppositely arranged along the stem.
Is oregano better as a fresh herb or a dry herb?
Deciding whether to use a fresh herb or dry herb for a recipe is a tricky one and it depends on the recipe that you’re following. Personally, I prefer using fresh herbs because they have a more punchy and fresh flavor, but it also means that it shouldn’t be cooked too long or else it will get all soggy and said.
If you’re making a soup, pasta sauce, or stew, a dry herb may be a better option because it can marinate in the sauce for as long as you like without wilting.
Can you dry fresh oregano?
It is actually best if you dry fresh oregano rather than oregano that has been sitting around for a while. This is because freshly harvested oregano is going to have the highest content of essential oils, which will then contribute to more flavor in the dried herb.
How long can you store oregano?
Essentially you can store oregano for many many years and the dried herb won’t go bad, but it tends to diminish in flavor over time. They say that dried oregano will be the most high quality up to 6 months and afterwards should be replaced. But if it is kept in an airtight container it will never actually go bad to the point of making one ill.
How can you use oregano essential oils?
Oregano essential oil has been a long time part of folk medicine and is making its way into the mainstream. This type of oil is antifungal and antibacterial and it is said it can help deter all sorts of pathogens that cause sickness. You can take it both topically and it can be ingested. People swear by oregano being great for helping get rid of ear infections.
What is the most easy way to dry oregano?
Considering which is the most easy way to dry oregano, you must first decide which aspect you would like to be efficient. If you’re looking for energy efficiency, you should hang dry it. If you’re looking for time efficiency, you should oven dry, if you’re looking for quality efficiency, you should use a dehydrator.
What can you grow alongside oregano?
Some other great herbs you can add to you herb garden are basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. This way you can also experiment with dry parsley and so on.
Can you keep oregano in a plastic bag?
Technically you can keep oregano in a plastic bag for a little while, but there is a strong chance that excess water will start to develop in the bag which can cause the fresh herb to get moldy or brown.