On any given summer afternoon at my house, you will hear the subtle, constant hum of my food dehydrator running on the back porch. I devote its use entirely to drying herbs. I'm reminded by its faint sound that it is capturing my garden's peak aromas and flavors and saving them for a later date. And oregano is always in rotation.
Of course, I will be tossing fresh oregano leaves in all things tomato-based over the next few months, so why am I not just eating it all up with reckless abandon? Oregano has a little secret: It is one of the only herbs that tastes so good dried that you would use it, even if a fresh version is available.
Just to add a little perspective, look at the 16-ounce wide-mouth Ball jar in the first photo. Last gardening season, I harvested and dried a little over 300 ounces of oregano from just three oregano plants from my garden. That's about 20 of those jars. I give a lot away, but I also have so much on hand that I don't have to be shy when seasoning my soups, stews, and tomato sauce.
Why Should I Dehydrate Oregano?
- It's easy. Just pull, wash, and pat the leaves dry. Line them in your dehydrator trays. Set on the lowest setting and check the next day.
- It's effective. Many other garden herbs lose their intensity when dried, but oregano always seems to be a winner. Coupled with the fact that oregano is so prolific, you can really capture a lot of flavor from each plant.
- It's efficient. Many other preservation methods require other expensive ingredients, such as olive oil or vinegar.
- It's enjoyable. The intense flavor of dried oregano lasts up to a year or more and you don't lose any of your valuable freezer real estate.
What If I Don't Own a Dehydrator?
Hang your oregano up to dry. Gather leafy stems into a "bouquet" and hang them in a dry, well-ventilated area. Make sure to wash and thoroughly dry the stems before securing them together. You may cover them with a paper bag with slits cut into it, in order to keep the bouquets dust-free and the air circulating. Store the oregano bundles out of direct sunlight.
Avoid oven- or sun-drying. Both of these processes have shown very spotty results, often with the color and flavor leeched from the oregano. If these methods have worked well for you, please share your techniques!
So, you're ready to grow your own? Oregano is certainly one of the easiest culinary herbs to grow, and the fact that it is a hardy perennial means it shouldn't be missing from any cook's garden. This post will get you growing.