Harvesting Oregano: Tips to Preserve Your Harvest

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Oregano icon

Understanding the techniques for harvesting and preserving oregano is essential for home gardeners. With effective methods at your disposal, you can confidently harvest oregano at its peak flavor and preserve its aromatic qualities.

How to Harvest Oregano? Harvest oregano before it flowers to capture its peak flavor, using sharp scissors or pruning shears. Regular pruning stimulates new growth and enhances flavor by redirecting energy toward essential oil production.

How to Preserve Oregano? Preserve fresh oregano by drying it through methods like hanging bundles upside down or using a food dehydrator at a low temperature. Store the dried leaves in airtight containers, ensuring they are protected from moisture. Freezing oregano is another option, either as whole sprigs or chopped leaves. Additionally, you can infuse the herb into vinegar or oil for flavorful condiments, or create herb-infused salts to enhance your dishes.

The Best Time to Harvest Oregano: Techniques for Optimal Flavor

Harvest Oregano Buds Just Before They Flower

To get the most intense flavor from your oregano, it’s best to pick it right before it flowers. The essential oils responsible for oregano’s distinct taste and aroma are at their peak just before flowering occurs.

Keep a close eye on your oregano plants as they start to develop buds. That’s the time to reach for your pruning shears or scissors, once the buds are forming but before they fully open into flowers.

Oregano budding - harvesting oregano

Avoid Harvesting Oregano During Wet Conditions

It’s best to avoid harvesting oregano after a rainfall or watering. Harvesting oregano during wet conditions can actually affect both its flavor and overall quality.

Moisture on the leaves can dilute some of oregano’s concentrated essential oils, leading to a less flavorful end product. Any dampness can also create an environment where mold and mildew thrive, so always wait for the leaves to dry out before harvesting sage.

Oregano Pruning Techniques for Continuous Growth

Pruning is an essential technique for maintaining the health of your oregano plants. While the goal of harvesting is to remove parts of the plant for use, pruning involves trimming a plant to stimulate growth. It’s often possible to achieve both objectives at the same time.

Prune oregano just above growth node illustration - don't harvest more than 1/3 of the plant

Pinching off the tips of young oregano shoots encourages lateral branching which leads to a fuller and bushier plant. When you pinch off the topmost portion of a growing shoot, it signals the plant to redirect its energy toward producing side branches instead of growing taller.

It’s best to prune oregano by cutting the stem just above a growth node, which is a location from which new growth and development occurs. A growth node appears as a small raised area or bump on the stem. This is where new leaves, buds, and branches emerge.

Use sharp scissors or pruning shears to cut back about one-third of the plant’s height for each significant harvest. Focus on harvesting oregano stems with buds that have not yet flowered. The leaves on these stems will be at their peak flavor, and the buds can be used for culinary purposes as well.

By cutting back your oregano, you create space for new shoots to emerge from lower down on the stems. This encourages vigorous regrowth and ensures that your plants continue to thrive.

Oregano harvesting - before and after

Preserving Fresh Oregano

Fresh oregano has a sharper, more intense flavor than dried oregano. If you want to cook with fresh oregano, there are several ways to preserve your fresh oregano harvest for short-term use.

  1. Oregano Water Bouquet: Fresh oregano can be stored just like cut flowers. Start by trimming the ends of the oregano sprigs and placing them in a jar or glass filled with water. This method ensures that your oregano stays hydrated. Fresh oregano can be stored in this way for a week to 10 days.
  2. The Refrigerator Crisper Drawer Method: If you prefer keeping things simple, you can wrap freshly harvested oregano leaves in damp paper towels. Place the bundle inside a plastic bag and store it in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks..
  3. Freeze Oregano in Ice Cube Trays for Future Flavor: Freezing is another excellent way to preserve fresh oregano to retain its taste and aroma. Two popular options include freezing oregano with water or olive oil in an ice cube tray. Wash and dry your oregano leaves, chop them finely, and add them to an ice cube tray with water or olive oil. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. The cubes can be used directly in your dishes when you cook.

Drying Oregano

Methods like air drying and using a food dehydrator are the best methods for preserving hard herbs like oregano. Check out my article about how to dry woody herbs like oregano, thyme, sage, and rosemary, and why low-heat drying methods are best for them for more information.

Hang bundles of freshly harvested oregano upside down

Drying is a popular method that allows you to extend its shelf life. A simple and effective way to dry oregano is by hanging bundles of freshly harvested oregano upside down in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. This method ensures that the herbs are exposed to adequate airflow, allowing them to dry evenly.

preserving and harvesting oregano

By hanging the oregano upside down, you enable gravity to help with the drying process. This technique not only preserves the vibrant green color but also concentrates the essential oils responsible for its distinct flavor.

Use a food dehydrator set at a low temperature

Using a food dehydrator can be an excellent option for drying oregano if you want to save some time. Set your dehydrator at a low temperature, around 95°F (35°C), which will prevent excessive heat from affecting the herb’s delicate flavors.

Dehydrators provide controlled conditions that effectively remove moisture from herbs while maintaining their essential oils intact. Spread out the oregano leaves on the trays in a single layer to ensure proper airflow between them. Allow them to dry for several hours until they become crispy and crumble easily when touched.

Remove leaves from stems and store in airtight containers

Once your oregano has completely dried, it’s time to remove the leaves from their stems. Gently hold each stem near its base and run your fingers along it in an upward motion to remove the dried leaves.

Store dried oregano leaves in clean, airtight containers. Mason jars or glass containers with tight-fitting lids work well for this purpose. Make sure to store dried oregano in a cool, dark place away from moisture and direct sunlight. This will help prevent the loss of essential oils and maintain the herb’s flavor for an extended period.

Oregano patch

Other Methods for Preserving Oregano

Some other ways to preserve oregano include freezing, infusing oregano in oil or vinegar, and using herb-infused salts.

Freezing Oregano

Freezing oregano is a great way to keep it fresh and flavorful. You can freeze whole sprigs or chop the leaves before freezing them.

  • For whole sprigs, wash them thoroughly and dry them before putting them in freezer bags or containers.
  • For chopped leaves, rinse and dry them and then spread them on a baking sheet Freeze them for about an hour, then transfer the sprigs to freezer bags or containers.

Freezing oregano in vacuum pack bags is a great option for storage as the vacuum sealing process maximizes air removal, which helps to preserve freshness and minimize freezer burn.

Freezing allows you to store oregano for an extended period without losing its essential oils and flavors. Whether you choose whole sprigs or chopped leaves, remember to label your containers with the date to keep track of their freshness.

Oregano close-up

Infusing Flavor into Vinegar or Oil

Adding fresh oregano to vinegar or oil is another way to preserve its flavor and create versatile condiments that can enhance your dishes.

  • For homemade infused vinegar, thoroughly wash a glass bottle with hot soapy water and rinse it well. Once dry, fill the bottle with fresh oregano sprigs or chopped leaves and pour white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar into the bottle, covering the oregano completely. Seal the bottle tightly and store it in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks to allow the flavors to meld.
  • To make herb-infused oil, sterilize and dry the glass bottles, acidify your dried oregano for 24 hours, infuse your herbs in warm oil in a small pot, strain the herb from the oil, and then fill the sterilized bottle with your oil. Seal the bottle tightly and let it sit in a cool spot away from direct sunlight for up to 3 months.

Once infused, these homemade condiments can be used as salad dressings, marinades for grilled meats and vegetables, or drizzled over pasta dishes.

For more detailed information, read my article on how to herb-infuse oils and also learn about the best herbs for infusing.

Shelf Life of Herb-Infused Oils and Vinegars

The shelf life of herb-infused olive oil can vary depending on the ingredients, storage conditions, and herbs used. Herb-infused oils using dried herbs generally last 1-3 months when stored properly. If you notice any changes in appearance, smell, or taste, or if it’s been stored for a long time, it’s best to throw it away for safety.

Herb-infused vinegar lasts longer than herb-infused oils. When stored correctly, it can last several months to a year or more. The vinegar’s acidity helps prevent bacteria growth and preserve flavors, but shelf life depends on acidity, ingredients, and storage conditions. If you notice changes in color, taste, or smell, or signs of spoilage like mold or cloudiness, it’s best to throw away the vinegar for safety.

Herb-Infused Salts: Flavorful Enhancements

If you’re looking to add an extra punch of flavor to your culinary creations, consider making herb-infused salts using oregano. This simple yet effective preservation method allows you to enjoy the taste of this aromatic herb while adding depth to your dishes.

To create herb-infused salt with oregano, wash and dry your oregano using one of the methods outlined above until the leaves become brittle.

Oregano-infused salt with mortar and pestle

Crush the dried leaves into smaller pieces using either a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Combine the crushed oregano leaves with coarse sea salt, ensuring an equal ratio of herbs to salt. Mix them well until fully incorporated.

Once your herb-infused salt is ready, transfer it into airtight containers or small jars. Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to maintain their flavor and aroma. Whenever you need an extra kick of oregano, sprinkle your oregano-infused salt on roasted vegetables, grilled meats, or even popcorn for a unique twist.

Storing Oregano: Quality and Longevity Tips

Store dried oregano in airtight containers in a cool, dark place

To keep dried oregano fresh, it’s important to store it in an airtight container. Store your dried oregano in a cool, dark place like a pantry or kitchen cabinet. Avoid placing it near heat or sunlight, as that can cause it to lose flavor.

Check herbs for moisture or mold regularly and discard if needed

To maintain the quality of your stored oregano, inspect it for any moisture or mold every few weeks. If you see any clumps or discoloration, it’s best to discard the affected portion immediately. This helps to prevent the contamination from spreading to other herbs or spices in your collection.

Dried oregano - butcher block cutting board


In conclusion, understanding the techniques for harvesting and preserving oregano is vital for home gardeners. By harvesting oregano just before it flowers you can capture its peak flavor. Pruning regularly also stimulates new growth and enhances flavor by redirecting energy toward essential oil production.

For preserving oregano, drying it by hanging bundles upside down or using a food dehydrator at a low temperature is effective. Storing the dried leaves in airtight containers, away from moisture, helps to ensure longevity. Freezing oregano is another option, as is infusing it into vinegar or oil for flavorful condiments. Herb-infused salts add depth to dishes and can be easily made using dried oregano.

By following these methods, you can confidently harvest oregano at its peak and preserve its aromatic qualities for your future cooking endeavors. Happy gardening and cooking!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I harvest oregano during any season?

Oregano can be harvested throughout the growing season. However, for optimal flavor, it is recommended to harvest oregano just before the plant begins to flower.

How long does oregano last when properly stored?

When stored correctly in airtight containers away from heat, light, and moisture, dried oregano can retain its quality for up to one year.

Can I freeze fresh oregano?

Freezing fresh oregano is a great way to preserve its flavor. You can freeze it as whole leaves or chop it into ice cubes with olive oil for convenient use.

Is pruning necessary for continuous growth of oregano?

Regular pruning is crucial for encouraging continuous growth and preventing your plants from becoming woody or leggy.

Can I dry oregano without using any special equipment?

Air-drying is a simple method that requires no special equipment. Just hang your harvested oregano upside down in a dry, well-ventilated area.

Can I use dried oregano interchangeably with fresh oregano in recipes?

You can generally substitute dried and fresh oregano in equal amounts. However, keep in mind that fresh oregano has a sharper taste than dried oregano. Fresh oregano has been described as having a hint of a metallic taste.

How often should I harvest oregano to encourage continuous growth?

It is recommended to harvest oregano every few weeks during the growing season. This encourages new growth and helps maintain the plant’s overall health. It is recommended to harvest stems with buds before they flower.

Are there any specific varieties of oregano that are best for harvesting?

While common oregano (Origanum vulgare) is widely used, other oregano varieties like Greek oregano (Origanum heracleoticum) and Italian oregano (Origanum x majoricum) also offer excellent flavors and are suitable for harvesting.

For more information, read my article on the various types of culinary oregano that are available.

What herbs grow well with oregano?

Herbs such as basil, lavender, rosemary, sage, and thyme are all considered good herb garden companions to oregano, as most of these herbs share similar growing characteristics.

Remember to experiment with different preservation methods and enjoy the flavors of freshly harvested oregano all year long!

Last Updated on 25 September 2023 by Bob Lee

About Bob Lee

Bob Lee is a gardening and culinary arts enthusiast currently residing in Minnesota's northern climate. He shares his 25+ years of experience on HerbGardenCooking.com where he combines practical gardening know-how with inventive cooking techniques.