How to Cut and Dry Oregano

Oregano is one of my most frequently used herbs.  I use it in Italian Seasoning, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, soups, stews and many other recipes.  It’s a good thing it’s so easy to grow!  In fact, even in our prairie climate, it usually comes back year after year all on its own.  The only thing I need to do is cut and dry it.  I love that!

oregano
The best time to harvest oregano for maximum flavor is before it flowers.

Also Read: Top 5 Culinary Herbs to Grow, How to Make Italian Seasoning, How to Store Dried Food

When to Harvest Oregano

Harvest oregano just before the flowers start forming, that’s when it will have the best, most intense flavor.

If you have a perennial patch, watch for it to be ready to harvest in early June. Yup, even here in cold, wintery Manitoba, your oregano can be harvested in early June. If you planted oregano this spring, you’ll have to wait a little longer. But catch it before it flowers for best flavor.

Flowering happens quickly. If you happen to miss harvesting your oregano before flowering, that’s okay, you can still harvest it, the flavour just won’t be quite as intense.

Mid morning is considered the best time of day to harvest herbs – after any morning dew has evaporated but before the sun causes the essential oils to leave the plant or excessive heat causes wilting.

oregano

Here’s a brief video showing how to cut oregano.

When oregano comes back from previous years, it can grow very quickly and can withstand several harvests in one summer.

If you just planted your oregano, it will take a little longer for it to be harvested, but keep an eye on it because it will flower even when it is small. You still want to harvest before it blooms. Smaller plants like the one beside the gnome, can be pruned to encourage more growth as well. Cut along each stem at the intersection of leaves just above where the leaves meet the stem. You’ll see other leaves starting to grow in that intersection, cut above those small leaves and you’ll have new growth very soon.oregano

How to Cut and Dry Oregano

1. When I cut oregano on well established plants, I’m not too fussy.  As long as there’s an inch or two of greenery left at the bottom, I know it will grow back. I use kitchen scissors and cut several stems at once, about an inch or two above ground level.

cutting oreganoWhen I place the oregano in my basket or bowl, I try to keep the stem ends together. This just makes it easier for washing and hanging later.

oregano cut, stems one direction

 2. Wash oregano by swishing in a bowl of water.  Be sure to remove any blemished leaves at this point as well.  Leaves that are bruised or starting to turn yellow don’t have a lot of flavor, so it’s best to remove them at this point.  I’m always surprised by how much debris and tiny critters are left behind after washing.
washing oregano
3.  It may seem like a strange thing to say, but here it goes – dry your oregano before you dry it.  What?!  I know, right!  It’s important to remove water droplets or surface moisture from the oregano.  Herbs are fairly delicate and water droplets can quickly turn into brown water spots or worse, into mold.  So, before you tie your bundles or put them in paper bags, you must remove all surface moisture. I use a salad spinner and then lay out the oregano on a clean towel for an hour or more to remove surface moisture.  When the oregano is totally dry and starting to wilt, that’s when you can tie it or bag it.
dry before drying oregano
 4. Gather 5-7 stems of oregano and tie together with kitchen string.  To allow for good air circulation, do not crowd the leaves in big bunches.
hanging oregano
OR, you can toss washed and dry oregano (no surface moisture) loosely into brown paper bags. Leave plenty of space in the bag to allow for air movement. Use several paper bags. Do NOT overfill and Do NOT use plastic bags.
5. Whether you hang or bag your herbs, be sure to label and date them. It may seem obvious what it is now, but by the end of the summer when you’ve harvested a variety of herbs, they all start to look the same. Hang or store your bags in an undisturbed, dark and dry spot. I often hang my herbs in the garage or on a makeshift clothesline in my basement pantry.  Any place that’s dry and clean will do. hanging herbs
6. Your oregano is finished drying when it is so dry that its crumbly and crunchy, about 2 weeks in the summer (depending on humidity).
dried oregano
 Strip the leaves from the stems and place in a paper bag or glass jar.
processing oreganoKeep the leaves as whole as possible to retain maximum flavor.
strip leaves from oregano
Store in a glass jar or paper bag. The ideal spot to keep dried oregano, and other herbs, is in a cool, dry, dark spot. In my house, that means the basement.
Reality check: My spice cupboard is next to my oven so my herbs and spices are handy. I know the fluctuating temperature from the stove are not ideal for herbs, but I’m not running to the basement every time I need oregano! So I compromise. I keep two jars of dried oregano. The bulk of my oregano I store in the ideal condition of our basement. But I also keep a small jar in the spice cupboard for every day use. I refill this jar as needed and keep the leaves as whole as possible. It ensures my oregano will stay flavourful for as long as possible.
dried oregano labeled
I keep two jars of dried oregano. The big one with whole leaves, stays in the dark, cool basement storage area. The little one stays in the kitchen and gets refilled as needed. I don’t crumble the leaves until I’m ready to add them when cooking. This helps keep the essential oils (aka flavour) for as long as possible. Read more about STORING DRIED FOOD.

Using a Dehydrator to Dry Oregano

You can also use a dehydrator to dry oregano.
Wash and pat dry your oregano as indicated above. Be sure to remove any surface moisture.
Spread oregano loosely on mesh trays. A little overlapping is okay.
oregano on dehydrator trays
Spread oregano loosely on trays.
Set temperature to the herb setting or 95°F/35°C.
It will take 6-10 hours to dry depending on the humidity at the time.
oregano finished on dehydrator trays

Dried oregano, like most herbs will start to lose its flavour after about six months, but I usually continue to use it until next year’s harvest. If stored well, you’ll still retain some of that great flavour.

Harvesting and Preserving Other Herbs

How to Dry Basil – 6 Ways

How to Dry Green Onions

How to Harvest and Dry Lavender

How to Cut and Dry Rosemary

How to Harvest and Freeze Dill

How to Harvest and Dry Chamomile

How to Harvest and Freeze Parsley

How to Harvest and Dry Lemon Balm

What are your favourite ways to use oregano? I love getting reader’s questions and comments, please leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram @getgettys and Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist.

Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener. 

Similar Posts

8 Comments

  1. Really informative, thank you but please explain why you pronounce oregano the way you do. No one says it like that. It’s OR-E-GANO (OREGARNO) not OREGENO

    1. Glad you found the post informative. Gosh, I didn’t even realize I pronounced it funny. Hope you won’t hold it against me!:)

  2. Hi! I harvested a bunch of oregano that I had and bundled it up and hung it in the garage. But it was my first time and I didn’t know to wash it first. Was wondering if there’s anything I can do at this point, like unbundle the herbs and wash and dry them now and hang up again? ( it’s only been a few days.) I would assume I can’t wash them later after the herbs are dried because they will just disintegrate. What do you suggest? Thanks!

    1. Hi Laura,
      Hmm, interesting dilemma. Given it’s been a couple of days and that the oregano has likely started to wilt already, I don’t think I would unbundle it and wash it. The risk of mold by introducing moisture at this point, I think, would be too great.
      Sometimes, I don’t wash my herbs before drying. It all depends on the condition of the herbs. I check for dirt and insects and decide based on what the herbs look like. Yes, there will always be some little things that you can’t see – but I’m okay with that – are you? My guess is that since it didn’t occur to you to wash your herbs, they were probably pretty clean. Had you noticed a lot of debris in your oregano, I’m sure you would have instinctively washed it.
      And you’re right, you can’t wash them afterwards. It’s now or never.
      The other good news is that oregano is a fast growing plant and you’ll likely get another harvest this year. If you decide this batch isn’t right for you, you can try again.
      Good luck!
      Getty

  3. I’m so glad I found your website, I’m learning so much! So a question for you, I’m noticing you seem to always hang your herbs to dry instead of using your dehydrator. Is there a reason for that? It seems easier or at least quicker to use the dehydrator, but this is my first season growing my own herbs so I’m just learning.

    1. Hi Kimberly,
      Thanks for your comments! I’m glad you find my website helpful, I appreciate your feedback. As to your question, I often have a large batch of herbs to dry at a time, I find hanging them much easier than putting them in the dehydrator, especially when we have a hot dry summer and I don’t need them for a while. I just bundle and hang them. You’re right, the dehydrator is quicker and provides more control. It’s my preferred method when I have small batches of herbs, it’s too humid outside or I want to watch the drying process more carefully. Hope that helps.

Comments are closed.