When to harvest oregano (proven method)

Harvest oregano in the morning after the dew has dried and the aromatic oils are at their highest level. Harvest and prune your oregano plants regularly, but avoid taking more than ⅓ of any individual plant at any given time. 

Plan to harvest your oregano plant before it starts to flower or you will find that the taste is milder or even bitter for some varieties, and that the rate of re-growth will slow down.

Oregano is a perennial herb and will come back year after year if you treat your plants right.

When can I start harvesting my oregano plant?

You should wait for your oregano plant to grow stems that are at least 10 cm / 4 inches tall.

But it is safe to start harvesting your plant at this early stage of development as long as you stick to only harvesting a maximum of ⅓ of the branches.

Regular harvesting and pruning will stimulate new growth and a stronger, more compact plant.

What is the best way to harvest oregano?

My preferred method is to use a pair of sharp garden scissors. Cut the stem at a 45 degree angle and watch the plant grow back stronger and bushier.

Avoid pinching the branches with your fingers. You risk bruising the plant and it is so easy to use a pair of scissors or at least a sharp knife.

Can I harvest after the oregano plant starts to flower?

Yes, of course you can. But you will find that the taste will be milder and for some varieties of oregano even bitter. 

You will also find that the rate of regrowth is much slower when you harvest after the plant flowers.

We pinch or cut the tips on most of our oregano plants to prevent them from blooming. 

Bonus tip: Why not let some of your oregano plants flower to help attract pollinators like butterflies and bees.

Do you harvest late in the year?

We always stop harvesting early fall to let the plants rest and prepare to overwinter. 

I find that perennial Mediterranean herbs like oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme and tarragon do better when I let them overwinter and then prune and cut them back in the spring.

Will oregano grow back after harvest?

Yes, oregano will grow back stronger and more compact when you harvest or prune the plant.

I would even go so far to say that oregano needs to be pruned to stay healthy. Untended plants will lose their shape and grow woody stems prematurely. 

What is the best way to preserve oregano?

I don’t know which is the best way, but drying oregano is my favourite method to preserve oregano.

But freezing oregano flavoured olive oil cubes come in as a close second.

You can also freeze oregano whole, but I prefer the other two methods.

How do you dry oregano?

Start by harvesting a bunch of oregano stems. Oregano loses a lot of its volume when dried, which is why you need to harvest at least 10 stems.

Next, rinse and wash the stems thoroughly. Be careful to remove any dirt but also unwelcome bugs and insects.

Now dry the leaves to remove any excess water. 

Next, place the stems in a brown paper bag. Put the bag in a dark room with good air circulation. You are looking for dry heat and room temperature is fine. 

The oregano will dry in anything from one to several weeks. Check back every now and then. 

You will know when the oregano is dry as it will fall off the stem.

When the leaves are dry and removed from the stems, grind them in a pestle and mortar to your desired size and texture.

Pour the ground oregano into an airtight container and store in a dark cupboard or drawer. 

How do you freeze oregano?

Use your fingers to remove the leaves from the harvested oregano stems when they are rinsed, washed and dried.

Use the same technique as shown in the video below with the herb tarragon.

Watch this video on YouTube.

Now place the oregano leaves in a freezer bag and make sure to remove as much air as possible.

Frozen oregano loses its form and texture when defrosted. Make sure you freeze your oregano in portion sized pieces for easier handling.

How do you make oregano flavoured olive oil cubes?

Again, remove the oregano leaves from the harvested stems when they are rinsed, washed and dried.

The next step is my favourite blend, but feel free to use your own spices.

Put a handful of leaves, a pinch of sea salt flakes and one tablespoon of olive oil in your mortar. Now, use the pestle to grind the content into a paste of your desired consistency and flavour.

When you taste, remember that you are looking for big flavours as this is a flavour enhancer that will be added to dishes. 

Feel free to add spices if you want.

When you are happy with the taste, pour the paste into an ice cube tray and place in the freezer. After a day or two when the cubes are frozen, place them in a freezer bag and put them back in the freezer for later use.

Should I wash my harvested oregano before drying?

Yes, you should always rinse and wash your harvested oregano to remove any unwanted bugs, insects, dirt and soil.

Do you eat the oregano stems?

No, the stems tend to be too woody and bitter to be eaten. 

But stems are great to use to add or induce flavour in a steamer or as sticks for kebabs on the BBQ.

Harvesting oregano grown from seed at home
Harvesting oregano, coriander/cilantro and a few other herbs this past summer

Resources:
https://web.extension.illinois.edu/herbs/tips.cfm

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants and garden vegetables. For the past two years he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.