Image by DaveNeukirch
By Bonnie L. Grant
Dried herbs store beautifully and allow the home cook access to many flavors and aromas. Oregano is a Mediterranean herb with a pungent scent and flavor punch. It is an easy to grow herb, which is used fresh or dried. Dry oregano carries an intensified version of its fresh palate pleasing powers. Harvesting oregano and drying it provides easy access and long-term storage of the herb. Learn how to pick and dry oregano to round out your seasoning cabinet or share with friends.
How to Harvest Oregano
Oregano is a hardy perennial herb that may die back in extremely cold winters. Preserving the tasty leaves is simple. Wait until morning after the dew has dried when harvesting oregano. The essential oils in herbs are highest in concentration in warm mornings. The best flavor is achieved when the herb is harvested just as flower buds form.
Use scissors or garden shears to remove stems from the plant. Cut back to just above a growth node or set of leaves. This will allow the plant to branch from the cut area and produce more flavorful leaves. Rinse the stems lightly if there is dust or mulch on them. Shake off the excess moisture before drying oregano.
Tips on Drying Oregano
There are several methods on how to harvest oregano and dry it for preservation. You may pull off the tiny leaves and dry them separately or dry the entire stem and then crumble off the crisp leaves. Bundle the stems together and hang them to dry oregano in a dark, dry spot. Place a perforated paper bag around the herbs to catch the bits of leaves as they fall and to keep dirt and dust off.
You may also dry the stems on food dehydrator trays in single layer or for a low-tech solution, place them on trays for several days in a warm room. Turn the stems several times during the drying process to expose the leaves evenly to air and heat.
Once the leaves are dry and the stems are stiff you can remove the leaves for storage. The best way to do this is to pinch the stem at the bottom and pull up. The leaves will fall off easily. The stems are woody and slightly bitter but you can add them to a fire for amazing herbaceous scent. You can also use the dried stems in a smoker to add flavor to meat as it cooks. Go through the leaves for bits of chaff and stem before placing them in a container.
Storing Dry Oregano
After drying oregano and harvesting the leaves, you need to store them in a dark, dry location to preserve the most flavor. Use glass bottles or sealed plastic containers that are airtight. Light and air will degrade the flavor of the herb. Dry oregano will last for up to six months with best flavor and quality.