Besides being a favorite seasoning in culinary uses, oregano has been used for thousands of years as a herbal remedy. We’re talking all the way back to the Romans and Greeks who used oregano to treat a multitude of minor issues: stomach aches, cramps, and aching muscles. Being a part of the Lamiaceae family (more commonly known as the mint family), is the reason for oregano’s vibrant aroma and taste. That distinct aroma and flavor is why the Romans and Greeks associated oregano with joy and happiness. A little less hardy than many plants within the mint family, oregano is still super easy to grow- and even easier to dry. First, let’s cover how to get your oregano ready for drying.
Before Drying Oregano:
You should first carefully cut sprigs from the plant in the morning, typically right after the sun has dried the dew off the leaves. Look over each leaf on the stems for blight, wilting or dying sections, insects, webs, and eggs. Discard any sprigs you find that have any sign of those conditions. Next, rinse each sprig for a few minutes or place in a large container of water and swish them around. When they are all rinsed, shake off as much water as possible and set on a paper towel to evaporate the rest of the water.
Method 1: Air or Hang Drying
While one of the easiest ways, air drying oregano isn’t the best for flavor and can be messy as oregano leaves fall off the stems as they dry. Air drying takes a long time, and for oregano, it can take up to two weeks. There is also the complication if your space is humid- you run the risk of your oregano molding.
First, start with a paper bag. Cut some holes in the sides of the bag for airflow. Next carefully set about tying the cut ends of the sprigs together into a bundle. Any string or cord will do, though I recommend something more natural made ( such as hemp cords used for gardening or thin cotton string). Shoot for about 3-6 stems a bundle. You should then take the bundles with the cut ends up and put them in the paper bag, tying the top of the bag to the bundles so the sprigs can hang freely inside.
Each bag should be hung in a well-ventilated area to allow a good amount of air through and out of direct sunlight.
The dried oregano leaves are dry when they can easily crumble in your hand.
Method 2: Microwave
This is one of the best ways to keep oregano’s flavor when drying. This method is quick and easy- perfect for limited space, and when you don’t have a lot of time. All together, this should take you about 5-10 minutes.
The first step is to pinch the fresh oregano leaves from the stems. After the stems are removed, arrange the leaves in a single non-touching layer on a paper towel. Next, cover the oregano in another paper towel and microwave the leaves for thirty-second intervals, flipping between each session and testing if the leaves are dry. Simply keep checking the dried oregano leaves until they can easily crumble in your hand. Remember to remove leaves that finish drying earlier than the other leaves.
Method 3: Oven
Drying oregano in the oven is a very easy method, but be warned as it can really heat up your kitchen. This should take up to 30 minutes to dry them completely.
Start by carefully pinching the fresh oregano leaves from the stems and discarding the stems. Next, take an oven-safe tray or baking sheet and lay down some parchment paper. Arrange a single layer of leaves over the tray, so they are not touching. Cover the oregano in another layer of parchment paper. If you have lots of oregano, you can place more leaves atop the top parchment and can add many layers like this depending on how much oregano you are drying. Then you set your oven to a very low setting (about 200 degrees Fahrenheit) and put the sheet into the oven. But don’t close the oven door completely- we want the moisture to escape and not be trapped in the oven. You should check and flip the leaves every 5-10 minutes. If the leaves crumble easily in your hand, they are ready to be removed to cool.
Method 4: Food Dehydrator
Dehydrators are a must-have for anyone who grows and dries their herbs regularly. While it isn’t as quick as some methods, a dehydrator is as easy as setting it and leaving it. Check back and make sure the leaves are ready after the time is up. This should take about 4 hours to dry oregano leaves.
The first step is to make sure your racks are clean and dry. After that carefully pinch off the leaves from the stems and discard the stems. Next, place the leaves in a single layer and not overlapping. Make sure to leave a bit of space between each leaf. Lots of food dehydrators have settings that are very different, but for most herbs, the lowest settings are perfect. The range is around 95 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dehydrator does not get that high in temperature, you will have to dry the oregano for a longer period of time. All you do is set your dehydrator up and check back after four hours or until the leaves can easily crumble in your hands.
Like with most herbs, a nice (preferably dark colored), dry glass container that has an airtight seal is crucial to keeping dried oregano good. Any bit of moisture in the container will spoil the batch. It would be best if you placed the sealed container out of direct sunlight. The best place is a dark and cool space- a cupboard or cabinet is the perfect place. The best way to keep oregano good the longest is to store whole leaves. The oregano should be good for a year if saved properly. Make sure to mark the date of the batch on the container for easy freshness checking. Make sure to also check each batch every so often for signs of mold. Ditch any batch that has signs of mold or significant loss of potency in smell and taste.