Fresh herbs are, without a doubt, one of the best additions to any recipe. Homegrown herbs, in particular, can improve the taste of your dishes, but they have to be dried properly for long-term storage, that’s why we’ll teach you how to dry oregano.
Oregano is one of the best herbs and is definitely a must-have in your pantry. It goes great with grilled meats, in sauces, and, of course, on top of pizza!
To dry oregano, you can use your oven or microwave, or simply hang the stalks in a cool and dark place. Whichever method you choose, you have to wash the oregano and make sure it’s completely dry, and then heat it for a certain amount of time.
There are a few key steps and tips you’ll want to know to ensure optimal flavor and quality, so keep reading to find out the best ways to dry oregano, when to harvest it, and how to store it.
How to Harvest Oregano
Harvesting oregano should be pretty straightforward, right? Just break off a few sprigs, and you’re ready to go. While that’s technically true, one of the tricks to achieve the best flavor when drying oregano is harvesting the leaves the right way and at the right time.
The best time to harvest oregano is right before flowers begin to form because that’s when the plant gives off the most intense flavor. So keep an eye out for those flower buds! If you have a perennial plant, you should be ready to harvest oregano by early June.
Don’t worry if you’ve missed the season, you can still harvest the oregano leaves, although the flavor will be less intense.
The best time of the day to harvest oregano, and any other herbs for that matter, is mid-morning, right after the morning dew has evaporated from the leaves and before the sun can cause any wilting. The essential oils that give the oregano leaves their pungent taste are at full force in warm mornings.
Use a pair of clean scissors or garden shears to remove a few stems from the oregano plant by cutting just above a growth node or set of leaves. We recommend wiping down your tools with rubbing alcohol before using them. Disinfecting them will protect your oregano plant by preventing the spread of diseases in your garden.
Now that you have some oregano stems, it’s time to prepare them for drying!
How to Dry Fresh Oregano Leaves
Whether your oregano leaves are store-bought or homegrown, it’s always a good idea to prepare them and give them a quick wash before drying them.
- Pinch off any blemished leaves. Leaves that are bruised, starting to turn yellow, or already dried-out don’t have much flavor and will rot while you dry them.
- Run the oregano stalks under cold running water to remove any dust, debris, and critters.
- Shake off the excess moisture and gently pat the oregano dry with a paper towel. We like to let it sit on a kitchen towel overnight (or just an hour or so if we’re in a rush) to make sure it’s completely dry. You can speed up the drying process by giving it a spin in the salad spinner. It’s important to remove any surface moisture from the oregano because it can quickly turn into brown spots or, what’s worse, into mold.
Once the oregano stalks are completely dry, you can choose your preferred method for drying them, depending on how quickly you need your leaves to be ready to be used.
This is the quickest method for drying oregano, but it’s also the one you need to be the most careful with. The oregano steams and leaves cook incredibly fast in the microwave, which means they can scorch and start a fire if you don’t check them often and cook them for extended periods.
Microwaving in short intervals at medium and lower temperatures will give you better and safer results, even if it takes a bit longer.
You also need to avoid overwashing the oregano stems so that the essential oils in the plant don’t leak out due to bruising. Just a light wash is enough. Make sure that the oregano is completely dry before cooking it in the microwave.
To dry oregano in the microwave, you have to:
- Lay your oregano stalks between two paper towels on a plate, and place it in the microwave.
- Microwave 30 seconds at medium power.
- Check the leaves and keep microwaving in short intervals of 15 to 20 seconds.
- You’ll notice that the leaves will start to curl and dry after a few bouts.
- It should take 2 to 3 minutes for the leaves to dry completely, depending on the power of the microwave. Never microwave longer than 5 minutes.
- Once they’re ready, let them cool off before crushing them with your fingers and storing them.
How to Dry Oregano in the Oven
This method is safer than microwaving, and still rather quick. You don’t even need to pat your oregano dry with paper towels and let it air dry after washing it because there’s no risk of them growing mold.
This is what you should do:
- Preheat the oven to 170°F (77 °C) or at the lowest setting for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spread the oregano stems out on top of the parchment paper in a single layer. Make sure none of the leaves are overlapping so they dry evenly.
- Bake your oregano in the center rack of your oven for about 1 hour. It may take a bit longer than an hour, so you might want to check your sprigs every 15 minutes or so to ensure they aren’t too dry. Bear in mind that if the oven is too hot, you risk losing some of the herb’s flavor and even burning the leaves.
- After removing the tray from the oven, let your oregano cool on the baking sheet for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Pinch the stem at the bottom and pull up to remove the leaves. Store them in an airtight container.
The traditional way of drying oregano is by hanging a bundle of stalks. It takes longer than the other methods, anywhere from several days to a few weeks, but it doesn’t require any supplies except for a piece of twine a few rubber bands.
Here’s what you have to do:
- Prepare the leaves as you would with any of the other techniques we’ve mentioned so far. Namely: remove blemished leaves, wash under cool water, and dry thoroughly. It’s essential that no moisture remains on the leaves or the stalks because the risk of them developing mold with this method is high.
- Grab some twine and tie 3 or 4 stems together. Tie them very tightly because they’ll shrink as they dry and can slip out. When we harvest large amounts of oregano, we like to make small bundles, so they dry faster and more evenly. This way you also improve the airflow between the leaves, reducing the risk of mold.
- Find a suitable place to hang the stems in. You need to hang them upside down and keep them out of direct sunlight. The area needs to have good airflow and low humidity levels in the air.
- If you hang them up against a wall, turn them over every day so the oregano dries evenly.
You’ll know when the oregano is completely dry when the stems are stiff and the leaves break rather than bend. As we’ve mentioned before, air drying oregano takes a while, but the delicious results are well worth it.
Dry oregano should be stored in a glass bottle or airtight plastic container in a dark, dry location to preserve the most flavor. We like to store them in a mason jar and keep them in the spice drawer, so they’re close at hand, but still protected from high temperatures and light.
Frequently Asked Questions
This will mostly depend on the method you choose to dry oregano. Microwaving is the quickest, taking less than 5 minutes. Next is cooking in the oven, which takes about an hour or two. The slowest way is hang-drying, which takes at least a couple of weeks.
Dry oregano can last for about 6 months with the best flavor and quality. You can keep it for up to a year, but the quality will decline as time goes by.
Drying oregano is incredibly easy. So much so, that you can harvest a large quantity and dry it in batches so that you have enough to last you through the colder seasons.
There are three methods you can choose from, and some are quicker than others. If you live in a particularly humid climate, though, we recommend using the oven or microwave rather than hang-drying your oregano because the stems and leaves may actually mold instead of drying.
All that’s left is for you to harvest some fresh oregano, dry it, and add it to your spices and herbs rack.