One of the best additions to any recipe is fresh herbs. Taking herbs from the garden to the table is a great way to improve the flavor of different recipes, and using the right method for drying them is essential. Herbs like oregano can be harvested and dried throughout their growing seasons. But what’s the best way to dry it? In this article, we’ll cover how to dry oregano.
Oregano is lovely with grilled meats, and its leaves go very well in sauces. A little bit of effort in harvesting and drying oregano from the garden will give you fresh herbs in the kitchen year-round. Using the best storage method for your situation will keep the best flavor of oregano in each recipe.
You can do this easily with items you have around your home, and there are lots of tricks to try. Making sure your drying process is sound will do justice to the fresh oregano that grew in your garden. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try a different way to dry oregano than you’re used to?
Methods of Drying Oregano
If you don’t know how to dry oregano, fear not. You can dry herbs in the oven, a food dehydrator, or even with just some twine. Some methods require a paper bag, and some need you to break out your baking sheet. One method of drying oregano will be best suited to your needs.
Don’t Forget to Wash!
All of these methods begin after the harvest and washing steps. After you wash, pat off excess moisture and allow the oregano to sit on a porous cloth or paper towel to dry for at least 5 minutes. It’s assumed you’ve already taken stems of an oregano plant from your garden, and you’ve washed and dried them in preparation for the drying process. Read through to figure out which way to dry oregano will be the best way for you. And then enjoy oregano in recipes!
After you’ve washed and allowed your oregano stems to completely dry, arrange them in a single layer on your dehydrator tray. Before you put the tray on the dehydrator rack, set it to the lowest setting: between 95 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
If your dehydrator has multiple layers dehydrate more oregano or other fresh herbs from your garden on the other trays at the same time. Allow the dehydrator to work for anywhere from 6 to 18 hours. Oregano is ready when the leaves are dry and crumble easily between your fingers. Here you can easily remove completely dry oregano leaves from the stem for storage and use in your favorite recipe. This is an excellent way to control the temperature and moisture of an herb with very little technical expertise needed. Multiple trays allow you to dry oregano with other herbs and foods you enjoy at the same time.
Pros and Cons of Dehydrators
Some dehydrators are expensive and take up a lot of space. They can also be noisy and can get quite hot. To get the best from your dehydrator, harvest your oregano when it’s at its prime in spring and early summer. This will make the flavor of your dried oregano more aromatic, and will also last longer in storage. If you allow it to cool before storing it, your dry oregano will keep longer, too.
Dehydrators have a lot of functionality that allows them to dry oregano shorter than the 6 to 18 hours mentioned above. It’s possible to start drying oregano at a higher temperature at first (around 145 degrees) for the first 30 minutes and then decrease the temperature to the recommended 95 to 125 degrees for a shorter time than would originally be required. Check oregano leaves on the rack each hour to be sure they’re drying and not cooking.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, try drying herbs in the oven. Place oregano stems on a baking sheet lined with parchment in a slightly open oven at a temperature under 180 degrees, and you’ll have dried herbs in two to four hours. As you can see, the oven will take just a small amount of time to dry oregano leaves.
You can have oven-dried oregano in just one hour at the same temperature. In this case, check your sprigs every 15 minutes after the initial hour to ensure they aren’t too dry. Those that have dried crumbly leaves are ready to be cooled for container storage. Take them out of the oven for use in a recipe right away or save them for later.
The Pros and Cons of Oven Drying
Although drying oregano in the oven is one of the fastest ways from fresh oregano to dried oregano, it also consumes the most energy of all the methods discussed here. Convection ovens consume less than electric ovens and have the ability to be set much lower, which keeps the flavor of your oregano fresher.
Each oven has different settings and requirements. Some run hotter than others, and you may need more prep time to determine the best temperature for drying oregano. Parchment isn’t completely necessary, but it helps keep heat from burning your leaves. Make sure there is good air circulation around the baking tray. If it’s too hot, the oils that carry the oregano’s flavor can deteriorate and you’ll lose some of the dry herb’s flavor.
The microwave oven is the fastest route for cooking food and drying herbs. Simply place your oregano sprigs between two paper towels, then on a plate, and in the microwave. Set the temperature to high and microwave for two to three minutes. You’re still looking for oregano to be in a state where the leaves are dry and crumbly. Microwave an additional 30 seconds at a time until that’s the case. Easy enough, right?
Pros and Cons of Microwaving
Yes, a microwave oven is fast. But it can be dangerous. Since stems and leaves cook quickly in the microwave, they could scorch and start a fire if they aren’t checked enough. Remain vigilant with this method. One way to best preserve flavor in your dried oregano when drying in the microwave oven is to avoid overwashing the stems of your oregano plant. By giving each stem a light wash, you’ll prevent the oils present from leaking out due to bruising.
Because microwaves excite water molecules within the food they cook, you’ll also want to ensure your fresh oregano is adequately dried in a salad spinner or between paper towels after you wash them. If you do not dry well, they could get cooked in the microwave. Also, avoid drying in the microwave oven for extended periods. Even 5 minutes is too much.
Hang drying is a traditional method done with a mere bit of twine and some space. Bundles of herbs hang by a string upside down in an area with good airflow and low humidity for anywhere from several days to a few weeks. Some herbs will do fine out in the open, and some may benefit from a paper bag tied around with twine.
This is the least expensive method of drying herbs but requires patience. Hanging herbs in your kitchen adds some herbal pizazz that might make you feel good just by looking at the stems. Think about how all the fresh oregano will soon be stored for use all year long.
Pros and Cons of Hang-Drying
This takes up the most space and time of all the methods — much longer than the oven or dehydrator ways listed above. You also need plenty of places to hang herbs. A climate-controlled environment is essential as too much humidity can mold your stems. An herb with tender leaves like oregano may not be the best candidate to hang dry, whereas an herb like rosemary may be better due to its woodier stem and needle-like leaves. Because oregano is an herb with a lot of internal oils, fungal growth can occur, so it’s best to check your hang drying herbs a couple of times daily.
Using a Paper Bag
Place a perforated paper bag around the stems as they dry, and allow leaves to drop rather than remove the leaves after the drying process is complete. Once leaves are dry and crumble between your fingers, they are ready for storage and use in food. Unlike drying oregano in the oven, microwave, or dehydrator, there is no need to cool them before storing them.
Flat Air Drying
If you’re wary of drying herbs in the oven or microwave, and you don’t have a dehydrator, you can air-dry your herbs easily. Wash your oregano stems and place them on a baking sheet or tray on a paper towel in a single layer and wait. Each day, turn the sprigs and check them to ensure no mold is growing.
This is another very slow way to dry oregano and can take several days. However, the only energy you need is for turning oregano on trays or baking sheets. Much like hanging oregano to dry, be sure ambient humidity in the room doesn’t cause unwanted effects like mold. Once the stem of your oregano plant is completely dry and leaves crumble you are ready to store the herb.
You can do this method on many different types of trays: a metal baking sheet, glass trays, or even a screened tray. A screened tray may be the most effective way to dry this herb as it provides full-spectrum circulation. Just inspect the herb to ensure it’s still healthy.
To sun dry oregano, wash it and pull fresh leaves from the stem. Then place them in a container like a terra cotta pot or a colander. It’s important to provide the leaves with a receptacle that has perforation, which gives the herb enough circulation to prevent excess moisture. Place the vessel in a sunny window and toss the fresh leaves once or twice per day.
In a place with enough heat and low humidity, you can dry oregano in just a few days. If it’s humid where you are, it can take a couple of weeks. As with other air-drying methods, you’ll need to keep an eye on the herb to ensure fungus and mold aren’t developing. When they are ready, remove the leaves to store them long-term.
Curing Oregano Before Storage
After you’ve dried it, you must remove residual moisture to prevent mold or fungus growth when you store oregano. This practice is called curing, and it is essential to carry out before you store your dried oregano.
Why Cure Herbs?
Not only does curing prevent mold and bacteria, it also locks in the flavor. Curing allows you to retain a good deal of the molecular structure of oregano too. You don’t risk losing the hard work you’ve carried out in your garden to bacteria build-up because the oregano wasn’t dried properly.
How to Cure Oregano
Use a clear glass jar (like a mason jar) in a dry and cool room. You can also use wooden or ceramic vessels. Clear glass jars make it easy to tell if you need to pull oregano from the container due to excess humidity that causes mold.
Rooms with excess heat and humidity need not apply here. We want good circulation and airtight containers. Place them in a dark area of this room. Each day, leave the lid off of your container for about an hour for an extra layer of circulation. Then after a week or so, you can store your oregano with the lid on.
Store your oregano in the glass jar you used for curing, or in any other airtight container. It’s nice to have something clear so you know how much of this herb you have left. Place the container in a cool, dry, dark cabinet, and use it as needed. Oregano will keep for up to six months this way. After that its flavor declines but it’s still usable in your favorite recipes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long does it take to dry fresh oregano?
A: If you’re drying oregano in the oven on a baking sheet, it will take you just an hour or two. If you’re using a slower way, like hang drying or air drying, it will take at least a couple of weeks.
Q: How do I dehydrate oregano without a dehydrator?
A: Simply allow the moisture to evaporate via hang or air drying, or place the oregano in the oven at low heat (under 120 degrees if possible) on a baking sheet and allow it to dry on parchment or in a glass container.