Yummmm… oregano. Don’t you just love the flavor of this herb? It’s great on pizza and in most chicken dishes. Fresh oregano snipped onto foods provides a stronger version of the oregano flavor, but drying it allows you to keep and use this member of the mint family all year long.
To be technical, the perennial oregano IS grown year-round in warmer climates, but in colder areas, it dies back in winter, thus making it an annual plant. The cold winter months, when fresh herbs are scarce, are why we have to dry out the leaves, instead of keeping them growing all year long.
Tip: You can grow herbs in containers inside or outside.
Not all varieties of oregano taste alike, some strains are more spicy than others which have a more sophisticated, sweet taste. Many varieties sold in nurseries are rather plain and bland tasting, so before you purchase young oregano plants, make sure you check to see that they have the flavor you’re looking for in your oregano. Most nursery plants will have a brief description of the herb’s taste qualities.
Oregano can be harvested three different times during its growing season:
- First harvest occurs when the plant is about six inches tall: Cut back the plant to just above the bottom leaves.
- Second harvest is just before the oregano starts to flower.
- Third harvest is in late summer or early fall.
When you’re ready to harvest, make sure that you harvest the leaves early in the morning, before the sun heats them up. When you harvest, cut off the leaves off with the woody stalk attached, and shake off any dirt clinging to the leaves. If you’ve got any dirt at all, be sure to rinse the leaves off with cool water.
Tip: What is in a prepper’s herb garden
How to Dry Oregano
If you’ve rinsed the leaves, pat the leaves gently with clean kitchen cloths to remove any residual wetness before attempting to dry them for storage.
Air Drying: Hang the stalks in a warm place, out of direct sunlight and with good air flow. Or, place the stalks inside a paper bag to avoid color loss in the leaves. (I know, does it get any easier than that?)
Oven Drying: Your oven should be set on its lowest setting; with a gas oven, the pilot light is enough heat for oregano to properly dry. Too much heat, and the wonderful oils that make this herb so special will dry out and be gone.
- Remove the leaves from the plant, and spread them on an oven sheet.
- Place the sheet in the oven, and check the oregano leaves every five to ten minutes to see if they’re dry. Oregano does not take long to dry, so be careful!
Whether you’re air drying or oven drying, you’ll know that the oregano is done when the leaves feel dry to the touch. At that point, let the leaves cool if they’re hot, crumble them up, and either put them in an airtight jar, or vacuum seal them for later use. Store your freshly dried leaves in a cool place that is out of direct sunlight.
You can grow food for your family even if you don’t have much room. We recommend:
Easiest Drying Project Ever!
As you can see, oregano is an easy herb to dry, whether you use the oven, air dry it hanging in a bag, or just hang a bunch in your kitchen. I know it is cheap to buy, but growing your own oregano plants and using the fresh herb, and then drying the rest of the plant, will give you an appreciation of oregano’s flavor that you can never get out of a prepackaged dried herb. Experience is the best teacher after all.
What is your favorite variety of oregano?
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