From a romantic perspective, Greek mythology refers to oregano as a gift to human beings from goddess Aphrodite, and this herb is meant to help them lead a happy life. From a scientific perspective, common oregano is called Origanum vulgare and is classified as a member of the mint family. Though commonly used in Italian dishes, the herb is much more popular as “the magic herb of pizzas” all over the world. Oregano is used more by the perfume and medical industries than in kitchens.
Oregano usually grows up to a height of 2 feet, and it has leaves that mostly grow about an inch long. They grow spread out at the ground level. As soon as the plants begin to get bushy, small cuttings can be taken from them. Use only the leaves and discard the stems. Several harvests are possible in a year from the oregano plants, starting from when they reach up to 6 inches in height.
The best time for harvesting oregano is early in the morning, which is the time before the heat diminishes the volatile oil that imparts the distinctive flavor to the herb.
Cuttings can be taken by trimming back the entire plant, leaving a few inches of stem and a few sets of leaves in the plant, 2 or 3 times each season. This is usually first done when the plants get to about 6 to 7 inches tall, subsequently when they start to grow buds, and again in late summer. Start harvesting before too many of the leaves begin to turn yellow. Harvesting by trimming back the plant helps for more luxurious growth and better yield for the next time.
As the oregano plants grow close to the ground, they usually have soil stuck to them. So, the first step is to rinse them to remove all the dirt. Spread them on dry towels for sometime to remove the moisture.
- Strip the leaves from the stem and place them in plastic containers or zip-bags. Store them inside the crisper in the refrigerator.
- Mix the finely chopped leaves of oregano in some olive oil or butter and freeze them in ice trays.
Oregano thus frozen stays aromatic and flavorful for at least 6 months. Frozen oregano is much tastier than the dried form.
- Make small bundles of the harvested sprigs of oregano and tie them with a string. Hang them in a cool dry place with good air circulation.
- You can strip the leaves from the stems and let them dry out in trays from one week to 10 days.
- A dehydrator or an oven could be used to dry out the oregano leaves, if you want to get this done quickly.
Store dried oregano in air-tight glass jars. The process of drying enhances the aroma of the herb. So use such dried oregano sparingly.
Take oregano leaves and cider wine or white vinegar in a 1:2 proportion in a jar and leave it for a month or more. Strain it and store the fluid in a tight-lidded glass jar in a dark place. You could also add a few sprigs of oregano in the liquid for a stronger aroma.