Learn how to harvest oregano for drying.
Among the many different herbs, oregano remains one of the most versatile. The Greeks described it as “joy of the mountain” and for good reason! These days, it’s become a must-have in every culinary garden. It can be used as a medicinal ingredient, as well as a seasoning for various dishes. The best bit about them? These herbs are easy to grow and cultivate. However, you do need to be familiar with how to harvest oregano properly, as well as the process of drying them in order to maximize its many benefits.
How to Harvest Oregano
When to harvest oregano
An important thing you need to remember when harvesting oregano is to do it before flowers begin to form. This is when the plant gives off its most intense flavor. This can vary according to your location, so it’s best to be observant of your oregano patch to learn when it might be blooming soon.
For those who have perennial plants, you’ll be ready to harvest oregano by early June. If you planted it a little late in spring, you’d have to wait just a bit longer. Again, make sure you observe the plant so you can harvest before flowers pop up.
Now, should you miss the best time for harvest—don’t fret. Flowering for this herb does happen pretty quickly, but you can still pick them even after flowers have appeared. The flavor will not be as intense, but it is still quite good!
Once you’ve had your oregano plant for a few years, its growth rate becomes faster and it also becomes harder. This means you’ll be able to harvest oregano several times in one summer, without causing permanent damage to the plant.
However, if you have a newer plant, make sure you’re careful with over-harvesting. The same rule applies, of course. Even if the plant is new, make sure you harvest before it blooms. To encourage more growth, regular pruning is also key!
How to prune oregano
Cut along each stem right where the leaves intersect. This is where the leaves meet the stem.
You will find other leaves starting to pop up in that same area, so make sure you cut above those. This way, you can avoid damaging any new growth.
How to harvest oregano
- You can start harvesting once your oregano plant grows to around four inches in height. Some people wait until it’s about eight inches tall—but it all depends on the plant itself.
- If you’re harvesting from well-established plants, the primary thing you need to be mindful of is leaving about an inch or two of greenery at the bottom. This will make sure that the plant grows back. That said, if this is your first time harvesting from the plant then it pays to observe it first before following the aforementioned method. Leave around three or four inches, depending on its height.
- Don’t worry if you feel like you’ve cut back too much. Keep in mind that regular trimming will prevent your plant from turning “leggy” and also encourages new growth.
- If you’re planning on drying the herbs later, you might want to leave the stems intact. This should make it easier for you to hang them while drying.
Here is a great video about harvesting oregano.
How to Dry Oregano
- After you harvest oregano, the next step is to prepare it for drying. Start by washing it in water. Look for any blemished or bruised leaves as well. Remove those, along with any that might be turning yellow. This is because flavor-wise, these actually lower the quality of your harvest.
- Once you’re certain that are no bugs and damaged leaves left, remove any remaining moisture on the leaves. Sure, drying your oregano before actually drying it might seem tedious, but doing this really helps with the end result. You can use a salad spinner or just spread the leaves on a clean towel for about an hour or so.
- After you’ve removed the moisture, it’s time to start drying your oregano bunches. For this, start by gathering five or seven stems. Tie these together with some twine or kitchen string. Keep in mind that the smaller the herb bunches are, the better it will be for drying. This is because it allows for more air circulation. These would dry quicker as well.
- Once you have everything tied together, add a label and date to the bunch. If you’re planning on harvesting throughout summer, a label would help you identify which ones to use first. If you’re drying more than one herb variety, it would also help you differentiate between each one. They will start looking the same as they wilt.
- Hang up you’re herb bunches somewhere that’s dry and dark. Some people wrongly assume that placing herbs under the sun is an effective way of drying them—avoid doing this. Sunlight can affect the quality of your herbs, after all.
How long does it usually take for oregano to dry out? Depending on the weather, it will need two weeks to really dry out—this is during the summer seasons. Know that it can take longer according to the weather conditions in your locality.
LEARN MORE: 4 Methods of Drying Oregano at Home
How to Store Dried Oregano
You can tell that your harvest oregano is already dry by how crumbly the leaves become. If the pieces crumble with just your touch, it’s time to store these for later use.
Start by stripping the leaves off of the stems carefully. Place these in a lidded jar, a resealable bag, or a brown paper bag.
To retain maximum flavor, it’s best to keep the leaves as intact as you can. However, if you’re going to grind these up into oregano powder, crumbling them up should make the job easier. Note that grinding will lessen its flavor.
To increase its shelf-life, keep the harvest oregano somewhere dry and dark. Doing so will prevent potential mold growth.
SEE ALSO: A Complete Guide on How to Store Dried Herbs
Cultivating and harvesting your own oregano is easy once you have the basics covered! Just follow the steps above and you’ll get to enjoy more herb harvests in the future.