I made strawberry jam the other day and John said, “Did you take pictures?” Well, I hadn’t even thought of it. “That would have been a good branch,” he said. So, I was reminded that it’s time for another herbal branch newsletter, and I started thinking about what I’ve been doing with herbs lately, and what to write to you about. I’ve made rose honey with the beautiful petals that are out now; I’ve brought in a batch of lemon balm to dry for teas and infusions; I’ve gathered and dried hawthorne flowers… There’s so much to do this time of year.
So, I knew I had to harvest some oregano before it flowered, and thought a branch on oregano might be fun. My oregano is spreading this year, claiming more space in my garden. I don’t mind that at all. I use oregano a lot in my cooking. I tought you would like to leanr how to dry herbs using oregano as well.
When I harvest oregano, I just think of giving the plant a haircut. If I cut my oregano all the way to the ground like I do my lemon balm or peppermint it will not come back. So, I cut about halfway down the stem leaving lots of healthy leaves below my cuts.
Let’s get to how to dry herbs using a dehydrator. Once cut, I dry my oregano on a very low setting in my dehydrator. (It took a full day and night on the number 2 setting.) You can also strip off some of the lower leaves and tie the stems together and hang the oregano somewhere out of direct sunlight to dry, but this time of year in the northwest we’re still getting wet days quite often and herbs just don’t dry very well in our damp air.
Once it was fully dry, I stripped the oregano leaves from the stems into a mason jar for storage. I just composted the stems, but if you put them across the grill when you’re barbequing it will add some oregano flavor to your barbeque. You can do this with stems of other herbs (lavender, sage…) as well. If you want to know how to dry herbs, this is one way for one type of herbs. Other herbs you may appraoch differently.
Of course most of us know the wonderful taste oregano can add to our meals, especially Italian dishes, but I was curious what I would find with a little more research about this commonly used herb. One thing I found was a recipe for Oregano Pesto in a book called Fresh Herbs by: Barbara Radcliffe Rogers. It sounds yummy enough that I may try it with my second oregano harvest this year.
- 1 ¼ cups fresh oregano leaves
- ¼ cup fresh parsley
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ cup walnut meat, chopped
- ¼ cup walnut oil (I don’t know where to get this, so I’ll probably substitute olive oil)
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
Blend all ingredients except the cheese in a blender until smooth. Add parmesan cheese, and stir into hot pasta. She says, “This is a robust blend, so use it more sparingly than you would basil pesto.”
But hey, why learn how to dry herbs, when you can make pesto! :)
What else did I learn? Well, that the name oregano is of Greek origin and translates roughly as “Joy of the Mountain,” and that the Greeks used poultices of the leaves to treat sores and aching muscles.
Also, a strong tea made with the fresh herb (1 tsp. leaves to 1 cup boiling water steeped 10-15 minutes) has been recommended for soothing upset stomachs and headaches and also to help loosen phlegm during coughing and other respiratory ailments.
It’s great to learn a couple of new things about an herb I use regularly as I’m harvesting it.
Now, next time I have a stomach-ache or a cough I’ll give oregano tea a try, and maybe I’ll even make an oregano poultice for my next cut.