The amazing aroma of freshly baked Italian pizza mixed with a bold and spicy flavor of oregano — our fond memories of the Mediterranean coast. Oregano is a signature herb of this superb cuisine. It brings a piece of Italy to your house every time you use it. Let’s see how we can enjoy it in our herb garden.
- 1 Magic herb
- 2 How to use oregano?
- 3 Oregano varieties
- 4 How does oregano grow?
- 5 When do you need to harvest oregano?
- 6 How to harvest oregano without killing the plant?
- 7 Keeping a plant healthy
- 8 Storing fresh oregano
- 9 FAQ
- 10 Conclusion
Oregano plants originally come from the Mediterranean area. We can call them a statement spice of Italian cuisine. Although nowadays, oregano plants are grown in various regions of the world, we still associate this herb with Italy and its delicious food.
Oregano is a woody perennial plant growing up to 80 cm in. An oregano flower is pretty small, and its color varies from white to pink and light purple.
The most common part used in cooking is its leaves. But the oregano flowers are edible too, with a more tender, subtle taste.
Fresh oregano leaves have a bold aroma and a little bitter, pungent flavor. There are also distinct minty and hay motives in this ensemble.
How to use oregano?
We use oregano in countless dishes. Pizza with oregano is an all-time classic, but that’s not all. Paired with tomatoes and olive oil, it can create mouthwatering combinations. Pasta, beef, chicken, eggs — they all benefit if you add oregano into the mix.
There are quite a few oregano species, including Common Oregano, Greek Oregano, Italian Oregano, Syrian Oregano, Golden Oregano, and some others. They can vary a little in taste, but the dominant notes will remain.
How does oregano grow?
If you have an oregano plant, you know that it loves the sun. Ideally, it should be planted at no less than 70° F and in well-drained soil. Oregano doesn’t require too much watering, only 1 inch of water per week. So an oregano plant is not too high maintenance.
If you are reading this article, you probably have oregano plants and other fresh herbs in your garden. We want to tell you about harvesting oregano because there are a couple of nuances you would want to pay attention to harvest oregano without killing the plant.
When do you need to harvest oregano?
To harvest oregano, you need first to let it grow. Otherwise, the damage to the oregano plant may be too big, and it won’t recover. We don’t want that.
So let it get strong and at least 5″-6″ (13-15 cm) tall. It will take about 2 months. If you put the oregano seeds in the soil in May, the time for harvesting oregano will come in July.
One more point on the timeline is when oregano flowers bloom. Make sure you harvest your oregano plant before that. When it’s in blossom, the fragrance loses intensity. So plan harvesting oregano right before that.
The concentration of essential oils will be at its maximum level.
We recommend harvesting oregano early in the morning. This is the time when the oregano leaves have the most intense flavor, and you will benefit from the aromatic herb to the highest degree.
How to harvest oregano without killing the plant?
When your oregano plant is still young, and you are planning to harvest it for the first time, don’t cut more than 1/3 of the plant.
Then give it time to recover, and the oregano leaves to grow back. During the next harvesting, you should be able to harvest up to 2/3 of the stem without killing the plant.
If you want a couple of leaves to add fresh herbs to the cooking meal, you can simply pinch several top leaves. Make sure that you pinch them above the leaf node.
If you want to store oregano, and you need to harvest oregano in large quantities, then do it as follows:
- Harvest from top to bottom.
- Always leave a couple of leaves at the bottom of the stalk.
- If you harvest oregano, both leaves and stems, don’t cut more than 2/3rd of the stem, and use garden clippers or sharp scissors for that.
- Water harvested oregano afterward.
Keeping a plant healthy
Although our method of harvesting is the least traumatic, it still requires some rehabilitation time for the oregano plant to regrow. Of course, if you just pinched several leaves to put on a pizza, that’s nothing.
But if you harvested stems and leaves of the oregano plant in a substantial amount, you need to give it a little time.
One more important procedure to keep the plant healthy is pruning.
If you don’t harvest oregano often enough, it will grow ‘out of hand’. Your oregano will get long stems with just a few leaves. And that’s not the intended result. The plant should have a roundish ‘bushy’ form with lots of leaves (as we mostly use the leaves).
To avoid a ‘leggy’ herb, you should prune your oregano. The best time for that is before the plant starts to bloom. When blooming, oregano leaves lose their aroma.
Cut the stem in half just above the growth node. You will stimulate horizontal growth this way, and that’s exactly what we need.
Storing fresh oregano
After you harvest herbs, you store it. There are different ways to store oregano.
- Store fresh oregano.
- Dry oregano and store it dried.
- Make frozen oregano.
Let’s look at all the methods. You can choose one of them or maybe use them all.
At least, that’s what we do because in some dishes dried oregano is perfect, but sometimes we prefer to use a frozen variety.
Store fresh oregano
Store the stems in a glass of fresh water. The stems and leaves will be fresh for several weeks.
You can also put fresh leaves between wet paper towels.
Then wrap wet towels with fresh oregano in plastic bags and remove the excess air, creating an airtight container.
Store the oregano in the fridge. It won’t wilt for a long time.
You don’t have to wash the leaves before storing them. Just rinse them later when you are ready to use them.
Dried oregano can be stored for a long time and will preserve most of its flavor.
This is how you may dry oregano:
- Clean the oregano from all dust and dirt by washing it in fresh water.
- Remove the surface moisture with paper towels.
- Use threads to tie oregano stems into small bundles of herbs.
- Hang the bundles in a cool, dry place. Allow the free circulation of air to speed up the drying process.
- Dry oregano for 4-6 weeks.
- Crash dry oregano, it will be more convenient to use.
Instead of hanging oregano to dry, you can use parchment paper and put the stems and leaves between them.
Another way is to use a food dehydrator. You can only put the leaves on the dehydrator tray, the stems can’t go there.
- Set 100° F (38° C) on the dehydrator (or lower, if you have such a mode).
- The drying process will continue for 2-4 hours.
- Check every half hour.
- After it’s ready, let it cook and store it in an airtight container.
Dried oregano can be stored for up to one year.
You can store oregano for up to a year by freezing it.
For that, wash and dry oregano leaves.
Then put them in a freezer bag and into the freezer.
How do you pick oregano so it keeps growing?
When you harvest oregano, you can easily do it without killing the plant. Don’t cut more than 2/3 of the stems. Generally, harvesting stimulates growth.
We also recommend pruning oregano. Encourage horizontal growing, not vertical. Cut half of the vertical stem above the leaf node.
Does oregano regrow after cutting?
After you harvest oregano, it will grow back easily. Just don’t cut too much of the stem (not more than 2/3 of the stalks).
Can you harvest oregano after its flowered?
When in bloom, oregano flavorful leaves lose some of their aroma. That’s why it’s better to start harvesting the plant before it blooms.
In our article, we showed you how to harvest oregano without killing the plant.
It’s not difficult at all. All it takes is a little patience, a little care — and an endless supply of amazing Mediterranean herbs that will always be ready to use for culinary masterpieces.